Patrice Evra ended some patient possession play by bursting into the Wigan area, bypassing challenges from Moses and Antolin Alcaraz and sliding a ball across the area for Park, who stabbed a neat finish around Maynor Figueroa and past the unsighted Ali Al-Habsi. Scenting blood, United continued to pour forward down the flanks, flooding the space afforded by Wigan's three-man central defensive line-up. Park found Berbatov, whose pull-back was destined for Chicharito until Caldwell intervened. Moments later the Mexican's neat turn was negated by a hooked challenge from Alcaraz, yet referee Phil Dowd ignored the United striker's compelling claim for a penalty.
A second goal seemed inevitable. Caldwell escaped embarrassment as his pressured clearance ricocheted against Al-Habsi, while Gibson's effort from 25 yards was deflected wide by Ronnie Stam and Nani's free-kick from similar range curled a yard off-target.
Jordi Gomez spurned a promising free-kick from a similar position for the visitors, scuffing his shot against the wall, before Moses drew an important block from Gibson after fashioning space for himself in the United area. Stam then flung a superb ball across Anders Lindegaard's area, only for the Latics' lack of attacking numbers to undo its excellence.
Just as the visitors were growing in confidence, however, they were dealt a crippling double blow, as they lost a player and a second goal in the space of two minutes. Referee Dowd judged that Sammon deserved a red card for catching Carrick with a stray arm, but the apparent lack of intent in the striker's flailing prompted irate protests from his colleagues. Their fury was compounded soon afterwards, as Gibson's curled cross found its way to Berbatov on the edge of the six-yard box. Though the Bulgarian's first touch, for once, sent the ball looping out of control, he admirably held off Alcaraz and clinically tucked a left-footed finish underneath the onrushing Al-Habsi.
Events prompted minor half-time tinkering from both managers. Sir Alex