And, while Bruce was for the most part a picture of calm on the touchline, there was an unmistakable sense of hunger among his players in the early stages and they were rewarded after 14 minutes.
Valencia, whose performances have flourished since his loan move from Villarreal was made permanent in January, raced clear on the right and crossed low for the on-rushing Ryan Taylor to thump first-time into Maik Taylor's bottom right-hand corner.
Wigan were enjoying great success down Birmingham's left, with Valencia the arch-instigator, and the Ecuadorian twice had shots scrambled clear as the hosts pushed hard to double their advantage.
It took the visitors 31 minutes to muster a attempt on goal - Gary McSheffrey curling a free-kick high and wide - and their woes were compounded when Johnson leapt in on Kilbane and received a straight red card.
Despite Kilbane's protests in favour of the Birmingham captain, Mike Dean, the referee, was left with little option at a time when English football is attempting to eradicate any such challenges.
The decision merely increased Wigan's momentum and Kilbane unleashed a rasping left-foot drive that flicked Sebastian Larsson before rebounding off Maik Taylor's left upright.
Bruce was facing Birmingham for the first time since leaving them
As half-time approached Mario Melchiot, a regular beneficiary of Birmingham's porous left side, cut the ball back for Marcus Bent to flash wide.
Although Mauro Zarate saw his sumptuous goal-bound strike finger-tipped to safety by Chris Kirkland in first-half stoppage-time, Wigan's superiority continued after the re-start.
The tone was set in the first minute as Emile Heskey latched on to Josip Skoko's lofted pass, held off the hapless Martin Taylor - who was making his first start after suspension - and drilled just wide.
The hosts were profiting from Birmingham's appalling display yet their own performance must not be underestimated and it came as no surprise when they doubled the lead.
Once again Valencia was afforded time and space to cross from the right, Bent flicked on, Paul Scharner knocked the ball back in from an acute angle and, after Maik Taylor produced a fine double save from Heskey and Ryan Taylor, the latter poked home his second of the afternoon.
Wigan attempted to reap further ignominy on their opponents and Skoko miscued over from Valencia's cute cross before volleying just wide on 86 minutes.
A third goal was not forthcoming but, regardless, Wigan's triumph was never in doubt.
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