Barnsley avoided relegation on the last day of last season in what proved to be a frustrating campaign.
Had it not been for an inspired run at the end of the campaign, the Reds might have been playing their football in League One this season.
But this is the club’s eighth successive season in the Championship and under boss Flitcroft there is plenty of optimism that the 2013-2014 can be a successful one.
However, the history books didn’t bode well for the Reds, who last beat the Latics at home in 1954 – and that was in the FA Cup.
The two clubs had only played each other seven times in all competitions, with the Latics having completed a league double when the two last met in 2002-2003.
The Latics, though, went into this fixture having only won once on the opening day in their last ten outings.
This fifth-ever league meeting between the clubs was always going to be an interesting affair, especially with both having strengthened during the summer.
The Latics were the brighter starters and had the opening chance. Winger Beausejour whipped in a delightful cross from the left and Maloney was denied by a smart save from Reds’ keeper Steele, who got down well to block with his legs at his near post.
Five minutes later midfielder Mellis had a right-foot curling shot charged down in the six-yard box as the Reds threatened for the first time.
At the other end Barnett had a penalty appeal turned down after a tussle with Reds’ left-back Golbourne.
Dubliner Dawson tried his luck from distance a couple of minutes later, but his right-foot swerving shot flew high and wide.
Then, having narrowly avoided a yellow card for a series of strong challenges, the impressive WATSON gave the Latics a welcome lead.
The midfielder lashed a powerful dipping right-foot shot beyond the helpless Steele and into the bottom left-hand corner. It was a great strike.
The Reds nearly conceded again three minutes before the break but another smart save from Steele.
Midfielder McCarthy got the better of French centre-back M’Voto and hit the target with a right-foot drive, but Steele parried the shot and the Reds averted any further danger before the break.
Half-time: Reds 0 Wigan 1
The Reds struggled to stifle the Latics at the start of the second half.
Six minutes after the resumption Watson picked out Beausejour and the Chilean international rifled a left-foot over the target.
It was a sign of things to come as the Latics had the majority of the play and the better chances.
Two minutes later Maloney picked out McArthur and Steele was embarrassed as he raced off his line and missed the ball.
McArthur’s shot was goalbound, but Golbourne made a brilliant clearance off his own line. However, it wasn’t long before the Latics doubled their lead. Skipper Boyce’s shot was going wide until HOLT pounced to poke home from close-range. The Reds faced a long way back having created no clear-cut chances all afternoon.
Perkins wasted a glorious to chance to pull a goal back less than two minutes later when he missed the ball together attempting a volley in the Latics’ box.
Kennedy cleared off the line after a frantic goalmouth scramble as the pressure mounted on the Reds.
Holt had a shot which hit Wiseman flush in the face as the rampant Latics continued pushing for more goals.
The home side’s afternoon when from bad to worse as McCarthy ended in a heap after a two-footed lunge from substitute Jennings, who had been on the pitch for less than five minutes.
Referee Eltringham had no hesitation in sending the former Bayern Munich man off on his home debut.
The Reds faced a mountain to climb and, with ten men, their task wasn’t going to get any easier.
With 12 minutes remaining the Latics bagged a third goal when BARNETT shrugged off the attentions of O’Grady from a corner kick and prodded home at the second attempt.
Flitcroft introduced striker Scotland and winger O’Brien to try and salvage something but to rub salt into a gaping wound MALONEY stroked home from close-range – after a delightful pass from sub Fortune – to complete Barnsley’s woes.