AROUNA Kone’s late strike consigned Norwich City to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Ivorian forward fired past Lee Camp with nine minutes left to force a result that brings teams a lot closer together in the bottom half of the Barclays Premier League.
The Canaries were punished for not finishing off some promising play as the gap between Chris Hughton’s men and the relegation zone was reduced to just four points.
Wigan pressured City’s back-line more in the second period and got their reward to collect three valuable points and their fifth win in their last six matches in all competitions.
Hughton said after the game: "It's about the clinical moments, and they had the one in the game that got them the goal.
"I thought we played well in the first-half. We wanted to get in behind them and get crosses in and, for an away team, I thought we did that well.
"It was disappointing because we gave the ball away for their goal in the middle of the park, so it was a little bit of a soft one."
City were forced into one change from the 1-1 draw against Sunderland as Camp made his full debut for the Club, starting in place of the suspended Mark Bunn, while Jonny Howson was preferred to the fit-again Alexander Tettey in central midfield.
Wigan kept the same team from their 2-1 win against Newcastle United last time out, with Callum McMananan in the eleven and Joel Robles continuing in goal with Ali Al Habsi on the bench.
The home side broke down the left on two minutes through Jean Beausejour, and although his cross beat the City back line, no forward has taken the gamble and it ran through the six yard box to safety.
City soon settled, though, and after Kei Kamara made his presence known twice in quick succession to Wigan’s central defenders, Snodgrass’ pace earned a free-kick 20 yards out when he was brought down. It was played short to Elliott Bennett, whose effort deflected wide.
Norwich continued to dominate the play and after Wes Hoolahan released Snodgrass on the left with a perfectly-weighted pass, the winger looked to be in before Wigan hastily retreated and snuffed out the threat.
Another free-kick was earned on the edge of the box on 24 minutes after Hoolahan was tripped, but this time Javier Garrido’s delivery was blocked by the first man in the wall.
Wigan went the closest they had moments later when Shaun Maloney and Emmerson Boyce combined to lay on Kone, whose shot drifted just wide of Camp’s right-hand post.
McManaman then missed a shot completely after a good square pass from Maloney, and with the match heating up nicely, Kamara couldn’t react to Snodgrass’ flick up the other end and Antolin Alcaraz swept the ball clear.
Norwich, and particularly Hoolahan, were winning and keeping possession effectively, but the half-time whistle came with the scores all square and neither ‘keeper having been truly tested.
The second-half started in the same manner with neither side establishing a spell of pressure, and it was Maloney who spurned the first chance of it when he suddenly found space in the area after a short corner but blazed over under no pressure.
Soon after, Bradley Johnson lashed a left-footed shot wide after a swift interchange with Bennett before Snodgrass beat Boyce and delivered a cross that Kamara could only nod back into empty space.
Those two combined against on 65 minutes; the Scottish international whipping in another dangerous delivery that Kamara stooped down to head wide.
Wigan were edging into the contest, though, and Alcaraz had a powerful header cleared off the line by Jonny Howson after Beausejour’s corner from the left on 70 minutes.
With quarter of an hour left on the clock, James McCarthy rounded off a slick move with a pot-shot from 25 yards that had Camp scrambling across his goal only to see it go wide.
The home team looked the more likely and could have taken the lead of 78 minutes when Jordi Gomez blasted a shot inside the area that Turner managed to throw himself in front of, moments before Scharner headed well over from a corner.
Hughton shuffled his pack by introducing Grant Holt for Kamara with ten minutes left, but Wigan snatched the lead seconds later.
Hoolahan was robbed of possession in the centre circle and Gomez played a pinpoint pass to Kone, whose pace took him into enough space to fire a shot that Camp got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
Holt was booked for dissent soon after and as City grew frustrated and the clock ticked down, they didn’t look like grabbing the all-important equaliser.
Alex Tettey made his return from injury off the bench along with Luciano Becchio, but they couldn’t make the required impact and City left pointless.
GOAL: Kone (81)
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Robles; Boyce (c), Scharner, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Beausejour, McCarthy, Gomez, McManaman (McArthur 66); Maloney; Kone (Di Santo 90). Subs not used: Al Habsi, Caldwell, Henriquez, Espinoza, Stam.
NORWICH CITY: Camp; R Martin (c), Turner, Bassong, Garrido; E Bennett, Howson (Tettey 85), Johnson, Snodgrass; Hoolahan (Becchio 85); Kamara (Holt 80). Subs not used: Steer, Whittaker, Fox, Tierney.