Paul Cook experienced his worst day as Wigan manager as the 10-man Latics were humbled away to Lancashire rivals Preston to dent their early-season optimism.
Since promotion from League One, Wigan have settled in comfortably in the Championship, but they were made to pay for a sloppy display here as Callum Robinson netted twice, with Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Gallagher also scoring.
Wigan’s day was made even worse when Darron Gibson was shown a straight red for a clumsy tackle on Ben Pearson and Cook knows his team will have to respond immediately to this loss.
He said: “When you’re managing a club like I am and you start with our aspirations, along the way you’re going to get massive disappointments and this is probably the biggest disappointment I’ve had since I started managing the club.
“If you’re looking at Wigan Athletic, the reason we are sitting where we are in the league is because we’ve had good days and I think that’s massively important. I’m not one of these who comes and apologises to fans because for me as a supporter myself, you have massive disappointments.
“We have underachieved for our fans and they go home hurt and I’m as hurt as them. The best team won the game, I have no complaints about that. Preston fully deserved the win. They had more appetite and created more chances than us and we just flirted with what we were trying to do.
“When you’re not great at both ends of the pitch then this is what happens.”
While Wigan endured a horror afternoon, this could be the game that sparks Preston’s season into life.
Sitting bottom going into the game, Preston needed just 17 minutes to break the deadlock through Barkhuizen’s low shot after some patient build-up and a clever through-ball from Alan Browne.
They doubled their lead shortly after half-time, Robinson slotting home from six yards out before Gibson saw red just before the hour.
The nerves appeared to set in from that point, but Gallagher’s third from the spot – after Lukas Nmecha had been dragged down – settled the game five minutes from time.
And there was still time for Robinson to get a second from close-range to add some gloss to the scoreline, with the returning Sean Maguire’s contribution to that score delighting Alex Neil.
He said: “I had Brandon (Barker) and Louis (Moult) on the bench who have been doing well for us but I think the minutes are crucial for Sean and I think he showed in the build up to the fourth goal why he is such an important player for us.
“Winning 4-0 and scoring four goals is obviously pleasing but we have been scoring goals regularly, the most pleasing thing for me is the clean sheet.
“I was worried until the third and fourth. But if I had needed to write a script for that would have been it. I thought they were good. There are still things we can improve on but it’s more about the points.
“It’s pleasing to get that clean sheet. That has got to be your foundation. Everyone is a hell of a lot happier now.
“We go forward with more optimism than before. Everyone will go home a lot happier tonight and it means we will be going in to the international break in much better spirits.”