Fulham manager Chris Coleman was made to pay by Nathan Ellington for treating the Carling Cup with disdain as Wigan scalped their Premier League opponents for the second successive season.
The Latics’ leading-scorer finally broke the deadlock of an uninspiring second-round tie in the 73rd minute, taking his tally to five for the campaign for Paul Jewell’s First Division leaders.
After losing in the fourth round to Wigan last season, there was no act of revenge from the Cottagers at the JJB Stadium, but then Coleman only has himself to blame for fielding a severely-weakened line-up and handing the home side the initiative.
Again, the talking point relating to top-flight clubs parading an under-strength side was raised as Coleman named virtually a reserve line-up.
Nine changes were made to the team which drew at home to Manchester City on Saturday, with the only survivors being Sylvain Legwinski and Junichi Inamoto.
The likes of Edwin van der Sar, Alain Goma, Steed Malbranque, Louis Saha and Lee Clark were all rested, effectively doing Wigan and the competition a disservice.
Unsurprisingly, a team which included the untried and untested Dean Leacock, Malik Buari and Adam Green struggled to find their feet early on against the Latics.
And it was Jewell’s unchanged side which conjured up the majority of the first-half chances, although the most clear-cut of the opening 45 minutes eventually fell Fulham’s way.
Geoff Horsfield, proving a revelation for Jewell since his surprise £1million move from Birmingham recently, had the first opportunity in the fifth minute, only to drive a first-time shot past Mark Crossley’s right-hand post.
Crossley, making his debut following a £500,000 summer move from Middlesbrough, was then forced to parry a stinging Horsfield volley before skipper Andy Melville cleared, the Wales international making his first appearance of the season after injury.
Fulham looked disjointed until they finally beat a path through Wigan’s defence in the 28th minute with Ghanaian Buari supplying the ammunition from the right.
Twice in the space of three minutes the former trainee found Facundo Sava, who last season earned cult status with the Fulham fans for wearing a ‘Zorro’ mask.
But the Argentinian first flashed a 10-yard header inches wide of John Filan’s post before firing another from six yards straight at the Latics keeper.
Wigan responded in the 33rd minute with Ellington curling in a 20-yard right-foot shot which Crossley just tipped round the post prior to watching a raking 30-yarder from Jimmy Bullard flash narrowly wide.
Eight minutes before the break Buari again picked a hole in the home defence with a far-post delivery for Andreas Stolcers, but the Latvian’s close-range, first-time shot also finished inches wide of the mark.
With an uninspiring game crying out for a goal, Crossley was at least keeping warm on a chilly night, producing another fine save in the 57th minute, scrambling to his right in pushing round the woodwork a 25-yarder from Tony Dinning.
That was soon followed by Filan keeping his side in the tie by pushing away with an outstretched left-boot Stolcers’ shot after Mark Pembridge had opened up the Wigan rearguard.
Then, and deservedly so, came Wigan’s retribution with Andy Liddell delivering a raking cross-field delivery to the far post where Ellington rose to loop a powerful header beyond Crossley’s outstretched grasp.
A few nervy moments in the closing stages followed for Wigan as Fulham tried to atone, but Coleman did not have the players on show to break the home side’s resolve.
The closest they came was in the first of three minutes of injury time when Crossley pushed forward for a corner.
He had the chance to equalise as a loose ball found its way to the keeper on the edge of the area, only to be denied by counterpart Filan.
WIGAN ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Filan, Eaden, Breckin, Jackson, Kennedy, Liddell, Dinning, Bullard, McCulloch, Horsfield (Roberts 74), Ellington. Subs (not used): Walsh, Teale, Mitchell, Flynn.
GOAL: Ellington (73).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Crossley; Leacock, Green, Melville, Djetou; Legwinski, Pembridge, Inamoto (Rehman 57); Buari (Boa Morte 66), Stolcers, Sava. Subs (not used): Beasant, T. Davis.
REFEREE: Alan Kaye (West Yorkshre).