Tevez has now scored 19 Premier League goals this season
By Ben Dirs
Carlos Tevez scored a 12-minute hat-trick as Manchester City beat Wigan at Eastlands to keep their chances of a Champions League spot alive.
City had been poor before the break and the second-half sending off of Wigan's Gary Caldwell was the turning point.
First Tevez took advantage of a calamitous goalkeeping error from Vladimir Stojkovic to tap home.
Two minutes later he slid in at the far post to double the lead before sealing the victory with a superb solo effort.
The win leaves City two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played the same amount of games, while Wigan remain just four points above the relegation zone.
Prior to the match, City had won only one of their nine encounters with Wigan in the Premier League.
City boss Roberto Mancini made four changes to the side beaten at home by Everton last Wednesday, with Emmanuel Adebayor returning having completed a four-match ban.
Craig Bellamy, Gareth Barry and Micah Richards were rested, with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Patrick Vieira and Javier Garrido also drafted into the starting line-up.
But for all the changes it was Wigan who made the brighter start, pressing in midfield and reducing the home faithful to virtual silence for the first 10 minutes of the match.
But City had the first chance, Tevez cutting in from the left and feeding Adebayor, only for Titus Bramble to block the Togolese international's left-footed shot.
Stojkovic, starting in place of the virus-stricken Chris Kirkland, then made a fine reaction save from a Tevez volley after a clumsy piece of defending from Maynor Figueroa allowed Wright-Phillips to deliver a cross. Yet without the ball City were listless, allowing Wigan far too much time on the ball: first Paul Scharner was allowed to shoot from just outside the box, his effort sailing wide, before Hugo Rodallega had a shot tipped wide by Shay Given.
Tevez, though, always looked dangerous with the ball at his feet, and his curled effort after an incisive break down the left missed by inches.
And shortly before half-time Tevez had a penalty appeal turned down, with referee Stuart Attwell correctly adjudging Caldwell had not made contact.
But for all the endeavour of Tevez and winger Adam Johnson, City were still booed off at half-time, while Mancini was already halfway to the dressing room when the whistle sounded.
Bellamy replaced Wright-Phillips at the break and Adebayor found the net shortly after the restart, but he was in an off-side position when Stojkovic fumbled Tevez's shot.
Rodallega had a golden opportunity to score for the Latics after City made a hash of defending a long free-kick but he flashed his right-foot shot wide, just before the visitors were reduced to 10 men.
Caldwell was the man to see red, referee Attwell deciding his robust tackle on Tevez constituted a two-footed challenge, although the punishment seemed harsh.
Caldwell's dismissal momentarily galvanised Martinez's men, with first Marcelo Moreno going close with a shot from outside the area before Rodallega almost latched onto a floated cross from Figueroa.
City came swarming back as the game opened up, with Tevez squaring when perhaps he should have shot and then having a dubious penalty claim turned down after a challenge by Scharner.
But when Wigan's defiance was finally brought to an end, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez would have been distraught it was down to a dreadful piece of goalkeeping by Stojkovic.
Patrick Vieira, who had been largely anonymous until that point, poked a ball over the top and the Serb international inexplicably chose not to claim it, allowing Tevez to tap in after the ball had squirted free.
Stojkovic somewhat unconvincingly claimed Adebayor had gone in high, although there was certainly a hint of off-side.
Two minutes later Tevez doubled City's lead, sliding in at the far post to convert a cross from Garrido.
And six minutes from time the Argentine struck again, skipping past two players before leaving Stojkovic for dead with a fine finish from just outside the box.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini: "It was an important win. It wasn't easy because Wigan played good football and it was especially difficult in the first half.
"We improved in the second half and then after the sending off it was too easy. The red card changed the game.
"Carlos is a fantastic striker and I hope he continues like this in the run-in. If we fight like we did in the second half, we will probably finish fourth."
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez: "The (sending off) decision was a key moment in the game and until that moment we were coping really well with everything Man City had.
"I felt we were growing into the game, we had a couple of opportunities and felt that the last half an hour was going to be crucial.
"That decision was a key moment. It really cost us and the game went away from us. To give a red for that, as a referee you need to be very sure. You can't guess with a decision like that and it is a turning point."
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