Randy Lerner endured an excruciating visit to Villa Park and cannot have failed to notice the overpowering stench of relegation as Paul Lambert suffered another painful defeat. Lerner, Villa's American owner, will have been squirming uncomfortably in his seat after Wigan secured only their second win in 10 games at an embarrassing canter.
Villa's third successive defeat, in which they have conceded 15 goals and failed to score, dragged them closer towards the relegation zone and while Lambert insisted he is not panicking, this work in progress is stuck in reverse.
Roberto Martinez, who has proven so adept at acts of escapology himself in the past, would not have expected such a comfortable outcome and this victory enabled Wigan to clamber above Villa in the table. Lerner, who had made an approach for Martinez 18 months ago, will need to cough up more millions of pounds in January to prevent another nail-biting end to the season.
Lambert said: "I knew it was a massive job and I've got absolutely no regrets about coming here. This club has been in a survival battle for the last couple of years. The last three results have certainly hurt us but I've got belief that Aston Villa will be fine. You've got to try and not let it manifest, we've got to keep the spirits up. We have to stick together."
Two successive heavy defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur had trampled all over the green shoots of a recent Villa recovery and they were behind after just 150 seconds as Lambert's defenders once again went Awol. Jean Beausejour's corner was not cleared and Ivan Ramis was presented with an easy header from close range.
There was an unmistakable whiff of desperation as Villa attempted to impose themselves on a Wigan team revelling in the wide open spaces. James McCarthy and Arouna Kone both wasted decent opportunities as a storm cloud hovered over Villa Park, providing an accurate reflection of Lambert's plight.
Christian Benteke, so outstanding against Liverpool earlier this month, received special attention and was restricted to half-chances and so it was Brett Holman who came closest to an equaliser when he struck the crossbar from four yards out. Wigan increased their lead seven minutes into the second half. Emmerson Boyce played a one-two with Kone and was given far too much room to advance and drive a shot into the bottom corner. A third goal sparked a mass exodus from the home fans as Kone brushed Matt Lowton aside and rounded Guzan to score his sixth of the season.
Martinez said: "Results are now starting to get important so this one is very significant. The performance was very pleasing and we could have scored more goals if we'd been more clinical."
Aston Villa: (3-5-2) Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Clark; Lichaj (Albrighton 64), Bannan, Holman (Bowery 64), Ireland (El Ahmadi 64), Bennett; Weimann, Benteke. Subs: Given (gk), Westwood, Stevens, Carruthers. Booked: Lowton.
Wigan: (3-4-1-2): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, Jones (McArthur 65), Beausejour (Gomez 79); Maloney; Kone (McManaman 87), Di Santo.