Martin O’Neill, who had seen his side draw all four of their games this season, was given a welcome boost prior to kick off after Adam Johnson shrugged off a thigh injury to make his first appearance for the club.
But it was another of his recruits that made the difference as Fletcher continued his run of scoring in all of the Black Cats’ top-flight fixtures since joining from Wolves for £12 million in the summer.
However it was the Latics who started the better of the two teams and went close to taking an early lead only for Simon Mignolet to save at point blank from Arouna Kone after he was found by Jean Beausejour’s first-time cross. It wasn’t until the 26th minute that Sunderland had a clear sight of goal but Sebastian Larsson’s goalbound free-kick was cleared by Ivan Ramis.
Wigan threatened again through Kone’s header while James McCarthy’s strike from range whistle just past the post as the visitors smelt blood in the Wearside air. But it was one of their own that saw red just three minutes into the second half as Jordi Gomez was sent off for a wild lunge on Danny Rose giving the visitors an almighty task to take three points back to the DW Stadium.
It proved to be a decisive moment in the game as Fletcher scored three minutes later, smashing James McCleans low cross past Ali Al-Habsi. It sparked the home side into life and their lead should have been twice extended by Stephane Sessegnon who saw his low strike palmed away by Al Habsi before diverting McClean’s cross wide of goal.