Wigan climb out of drop zone as Bruce starts to feel the pressure
RELEGATION ROUND UP
Charles N'Zogbia played a pivotal role as Wigan secured a deserved 3-1 victory that lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Now the former Newcastle winger is set to return to the North East aiming to undermine the manager who relaunched the Frenchman's flagging career.
It was Steve Bruce who brought N'Zogbia to Wigan before switching his allegiance to Sunderland. Bruce, under fire following a sequence of bad results, will face his protege when the teams meet in a further relegation encounter next weekend at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland's eight defeats and draw from nine games have gone unnoticed by N'Zogbia, who said:
"I haven't followed their results, so I don't know if it is a surprise to hear they are struggling. But we must regard it as a game we have to win."
N'Zogbia set up the first goal for Hugo Rodallega that elevated him to Wigan's record Premier League scorer with 20 goals. He then delivered the second himself, before Mohammed Diame's strike midway through the second half was diverted in by Neil Eardley to confirm a victory that took them out of the bottom three for the first time in 10 weeks.
DJ Campbell's 83rd-minute effort was too little, too late for Blackpool, who dropped into the relegation places for the first time. That is a position which, on Saturday's evidence, they are unlikely to escape.
Sunderland's dip in form has plunged them into the relegation equation along with a raft of teams, 10 according to Bruce, who has suggested that the safety target this season is 41 points.
Given that his team have taken just one from their last nine matches after Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Birmingham City, it perhaps does not augur well for the remaining five games.
Alex McLeish's men appear finally to have recovered from the shock factor of beating Arsenal to secure the Carling Cup.
Often outplayed, they found Simon Mignolet's generosity irresistible, the Belgian goalkeeper's hesitation inviting Sebastian Larsson to open the scoring before failing to prevent Craig Gardner's routine shot doubling the advantage.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, have transformed their fortunes and Saturday's 2-1 win at Upton Park has effectively saved them from the threat of relegation, while West Ham plunge deeper into danger.
Villa came from a goal down to draw 2-2 at Everton a fortnight ago and on Saturday, recovered from Robbie Keane's second-minute opener to win with Gabriel Agbonlahor's stoppage-time goal, following Darren Bent's equaliser.