In his programme notes, Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk described the Championship the “most demanding league in the world”.
For 56 minutes, the 22,753 crowd inside Hillsborough could empathise with Monk as the Owls and Wigan Athletic laboured in a scoreless opening.
The third game of a strength-sapping week, the quality on show was lacking, if not the effort.
But Massimo Luongo’s second-half goal settled this contest, earning Wednesday three points, and sending them into a two-week international break.
Victory puts the Owls just three points off the Championship summit with 19 points from their opening 11 games.
The Owls started with a 4-3-3 formation, top scorer Steven Fletcher recovered from the ankle injury which forced him to miss the midweek defeat to Hull City – Monk’s first Championship loss since arriving at S6.
Sam Hutchinson was suspended, relegated to a stint as a media pundit in the South Stand, meaning midfield recalls for Joey Pelupessy and Massimo Luongo.
It was the latter who had the first chance of the game, but after good work down the left flank from Kadeem Harris, the Australian fired into the side netting in front of the Kop.
But Wednesday escaped at the other end after an almighty goalmouth scramble. First goalkeeper Keiren Westwood saved from Gavin Massey, Julian Borner blocked Jamal Lowe’s follow-up, then Massey dragged his effort wide.
Fletcher mis-kicked – after Harris’s back-post cross picked out the unmarked Scotland striker – while Wigan defender Charlie Mulgrew nipped in front of Adam Reach to avert the danger after Fletcher’s header caused panic in the visitors’ defence.
Those chances came either side of Barry Bannan’s 25-yard strike which thudded against the crossbar.
After the highs of the Riverside – when the Owls led 4-1 at half-time the previous week – to the low of a 1-0 loss at Hull in midweek, the opening 45 minutes were somewhere in between.
The game needed a goal, and it arrived on 56 minutes. Reach picked out Luongo in the middle, and the midfielder rifled the ball beyond goalkeeper David Marshall.
The Owls were indebted to Westwood, who tipped substitute Keiffer Moore’s header onto the crossbar with 20 minutes remaining.
Fletcher thought he had scored Wednesday’s second of the afternoon – and his sixth of the season - but the offside flag cut short his celebrations.
In Monk’s own pre-match admission, it certainly proved to be another demanding afternoon in the Championship.
Monk said: "I'm pleased to have the three points and a clean sheet going into the international break.
"After Hull, it's important as a team you're able to respond and get a positive result when you've suffered a setback. We have to be pleased with that.
"It was a very good goal - well-worked. In terms of the game itself, I think the problem in the first half for us was that structurally we were fine and it was good but I felt that we weren't playing with that tempo and urgency we needed.
"We were at home, so we needed to show more urgency. It was much improved in the second half. We managed to score a good goal and saw the game out well.
"The lesson from that - as I said to the players - is that you have to up that tempo and urgency. When it's a difficult game and there are stoppages in play, we need to be the ones that show the tempo and urgency to do it."