REPORT: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2 PALACE 1
Wigan Athletic's defence of the FA Cup continues into the fifth round this season, thanks to goal from Crystal Palace old boy Ben Watson and a first goal for the club for James McClean either side of the visitor's bundled goal from substitute Aaron Wilbraham.
Ali Al Habsi collected a string of impressive saves throughout the game and late on McClean almost added a second to finish things off late on, but Julian Speroni prevented him one-on-one.
Uwe Rosler made four changes from the Championship defeat to Doncaster Rovers last weekend, with McClean, Callum McManaman, Roger Espinoza and James Perch all coming in.
Back on home soil Latics looked comfortable, building up possession with some impressive one and two touch passing, but it was the visitors Palace who came up with the first chance of the game, with only Ali Al Habsi's extraordinary save preventing a goal on eight minutes.
After initial Latics pressure, Marouane Chamakh played the ball into the area from the right and under pressure, Cameron Jerome struck first time, right footed towards the top corner with Al Habsi equal to it as he launched himself across his line to tip over from a corner.
A minute later the bright spark Jerome was in referee Mike Jones book however, simulation the reason given for the yellow card as he went to ground over what he claimed to be an outstretched James McArthur leg.
Half chances came for both sides soon after, with Stuart O'Keefe scuffing a low shot into the grateful arms of Al Habsi, before a short corner saw the lively Callum McManamn drive the ball into the side netting.
McManaman was in the groove and causing all sorts of problems for Palace full back Jonathan Parr, twisting and turning past him on a number of occasions to deliver a variety of crosses, but Palace held out and prevented the finish.
Former Palace man and Latics' FA Cup hero Ben Watson fired a warning shot narrowly wide of the left post on the half an hour mark, before six minutes later handing the killer blow to his old club.
James McClean on his return to the starting line-up darted inside the left channel, composing himself to cut the ball back for the advancing Watson who swiftly guided the ball away from Speroni and into the right corner to give Latics the lead.
Two minutes later the duel between McManaman and Parr became a little more serious in nature as both players collided, with the Palace man taking the brunt of the force and facing eight minutes of treatment on the pitch following a head injury.
Parr was carried off on a stretcher to a round of applause from both sets of supporters, with Dean Moxey his replacement.
The momentum Latics created from the goal fizzled out and the eventual nine minutes of added time played went by without incident.
A fresh start in the second half and a chance for both sides to get up and running again after the lengthy stop in momentum, with both creating half chances as O'Keefe fired straight at Al Habsi and McManaman continued his impressive display to beat Moxey but couldn't finish from a tight angle.
Palace looked the more likely to score as the game head towards the hour mark, with Jason Puncheon closest to equalising.
Puncheon took on a bouncing ball on the edge of the area following a scramble in Latics' area, but as it flew towards the top corner Al Habsi pulled off another outstanding stop to tip the ball over.
Latics shifted up a gear for a short spell with half chances in the area, but the ball didn't seem to settle for McManaman on two occasions as Palace clambered to block.
A double substitution that saw Aaron Wilbraham and Dwight Gayle enter the fray saw the game change as Palace worked an equaliser.
Palace threatened from another corner and this time took advantage of Latics' inability to clear, with Wilbraham barging his way through to bundle the ball over the line from close range.
Moments later Palace nearly had a second, but Al Habsi was on hand again with another brilliant save, tipping Gayle's effort wide of his left post after the Palace man ran half the length of the pitch unchallenged.
Latics had work to do to get back in front and on 78 minutes it paid off.
Espinoza won possession in the middle and found McClean on the left with just one man to beat.
The Republic of Ireland international nudged the ball around a challenge and started his run towards goal, reaching the inside edge of the area and firing low into the bottom left corner.
Now came the real test for Latics as Palace continued to fight, but the best chance for a fourth goal in the tie came to Latics, with McClean searching for a second goal, but missing one-on-one in second half stoppage time.
Latics held on through four minutes of added time as the dream continues for Uwe Rosler and his men with progression into the fifth round.