Wigan Athletic 3 Barnsley 2 - Reds architects of their own downfall after Nick Powell's quickfire hat-trick

NICK POWELL must wish Wigan Athletic could face opposition from South Yorkshire more often.

Wigan Athletic's Nick Powell (right) celebrates scoring one of his three goals in 11 minutes that sank Barnsley on Thursday night. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Five days after netting a dramatic 96th-minute winner that broke Rotherham United hearts, the former Hull City loanee was at it again last night.

Brought off the bench shortly before the midway point of the second half with Wigan Athletic trailing 2-0, Powell staged a quite remarkable one-man rescue act.

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His 11-minute hat-trick ensured it was an unhappy return for Barnsley to a stadium that just last May had staged a huge play-off party for a 4,500-strong travelling army of fans.

Wigan Athletic's Sam Morsy shoots past Barnsley's Matty James but fails to score. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Powell’s late intervention was enough to breathe fresh life into Wigan’s survival fight with the gap to safety now having been cut to four points.

Even with a tough run-in that includes trips to Reading and Brighton plus a final-day clash with Leeds United at the DW Stadium, Graham Barrow’s men have hope – a point underlined by the PA announcer playing I’m a Believer at the final whistle.

As for Barnsley, the shell-shocked looks on the faces of Paul Heckingbottom’s side trooping from the field told their own story.

The Reds had been firmly in control when Powell entered the fray. Goals from Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent had been deserved reward for their enterprising efforts and ability to break swiftly.

Barnsley's Adam Armstrong, second right, celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA.

Barnsley’s opener had come three minutes before the break, a barnstorming run from Marley Watkins seeing the Reds man evade three challenges before finding Kent on the left flank.

He took a touch, cut inside and thundered a shot against a post that presented Armstrong with the simple task of firing in the rebound.

At that stage, Wigan could consider themselves unfortunate to be behind in a tame contest that gave few hints of the extraordinary drama that was to come.

Barnsley doubled their advantage just before the hour. Again, Liverpool loanee Kent proved too hot for the Latics to handle as he capped a flowing move with a neat finish after stepping inside Stephen Warnock.

Wigan Athletic's Sam Morsy shoots past Barnsley's Matty James but fails to score. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

The game seemed up for Wigan but, as with Saturday’s controversial victory over Rotherham, Powell was about to enter the fray.

Just five minutes after replacing Gabriel Obertan, he put sufficient swerve on a 20-yard free-kick that Adam Davies was left embarrassed in the visitors’ goal as the ball squirmed from his grasp and into the net.

Fewer than 60 seconds later, Barnsley’s advantage had been wiped out as Powell, reacting quickest to a Davies save from Ryan Colclough, fired into the net from close range.

Roared on by the home fans, Wigan continued to press and their reward came eight minutes from time.

Barnsley's Adam Armstrong, second right, celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA.

A long throw caused sufficient panic in the visitors’ penalty area that Angus MacDonald’s coming together with Max Power was deemed by referee Simon Hooper to be a penalty.

Powell, typically, stepped forward then to send Davies the wrong way and put the hosts ahead.

The drama, though, was still not over with Barnsley being denied an 89th-minute equaliser when Matty James’s ‘goal’ was ruled out for a push in the build-up.

Heckingbottom’s players were furious but, in truth, they had only themselves to blame for allowing these points to escape that, with less than a quarter of the game remaining, seemed firmly in their grasp.

Wigan Athletic: Haugaard; Connolly (Byrne 54), Burn, Buxton, Warnock; MacDonald; Morsy (Colclough 46), Hanson, Power, Jacobs; Obertan (Powell 66). Unused substitutes: Gilks, Perkins, Morgan, Mandron.

Barnsley: Davies; Janko, Roberts, MacDonald, Jones; Watkins, Moncur, James, Kent; Bradshaw, Armstrong (Scowen 80). Unused substitutes: Townsend, Evans, Mowatt, Williams, Hedges, Lee.

Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).