We should have known better. Albion fans have become accustomed to exciting finishes to the season and now they are in for another.

Manager Mark McGhee has been emphasising all along that the struggle for Championship survival was far from over, even when his team had accumulated 44 points three games ago.

An extraordinary third defeat on the trot against the leaders has left the Seagulls one win clear of the relegation zone with eight games remaining.

This was the stuff of nightmares: 2-0 adrift inside four minutes, 3-0 behind after 17 and 4-0 down after 34, a landslide beckoned.

That could have done untold damage to confidence levels on the back of Saturday's 5-1 hammering at Plymouth.

At least Albion emerged in the end with a measure of respectability but the defence, for so long the stabilising influence in the fight to stay up, need to rediscover their mean streak, otherwise Albion could be sucked into even deeper trouble.

Perhaps the most improbable aspect of an astonishing match was that Wigan's Nathan Ellington, the topscorer in the Championship, failed to add to his tally of 23 goals.

At least Albion managed to stop him!

Wigan arrived late after their coach was stuck in traffic on the A23 but Albion were the ones quickly trying to extricate themselves from an almighty jam.

Only 93 seconds were on the clock when the Latics took a spectacular lead.

Ian Breckin's long ball out of defence was headed by Ellington into the path of Jimmy Bullard. The former Peterborough midfielder unleashed a dipping drive from 25 yards which gave Rami Shaaban no chance.

Albion fell further behind two minutes later. Lee McCulloch had time and space at the near post to turn on a low cross from Leighton Baines and fire past Shaaban.

The Seagulls' task was difficult enough, without the leaders taking such an early grip on the game.

It could have been worse, Shaaban parrying a shot by McCulloch after Wigan's left-sided midfielder had again been allowed time and room.

Very soon it was even worse, Wigan scoring their third after only 17 minutes.

Jason Roberts, all pace and power, opened up Albion's bemused rearguard before feeding Gary Teale, who found the net with a low angled shot.

The Withdean crowd were stunned into silence, which turned into disbelief when Wigan helped themselves to a fourth goal in the 34th minute.

It was almost inevitable that Ellington or Roberts would join in the fun for the visitors. Roberts did just that with a glancing header from McCulloch's cross, his 18th of the season.

The only crumb of comfort for Albion amid the havoc was that they looked capable of scoring themselves against the second meanest defence in the division.

Mark McCammon, returning from illness, posed problems with his aerial power, heading narrowly wide from a cross and later from two corners in swift succession, with Leon Knight the provider on every occasion.

They were rewarded when Adam Virgo stabbed his seventh of the season past Filan from ten yards. That made the score 4-1 after 36 minutes, exactly as it was at Plymouth at the weekend. The Seagulls, it goes without saying, would not have appreciated the sense of symmetry.

The half-time stats told their own story. Albion had more attempts at goal than Wigan in the opening 45 minutes. The trouble was most of theirs were off target, whereas the Latics were impressively lethal.

Although the second half was destined to be immaterial in terms of the outcome, it was still important that Albion did not completely capitulate in order to maintain some confidence for the challenge ahead.

Dean Hammond, on for Alexis Nicolas, nearly reduced the arrears with his first touch, heading just wide from Knight's cross.

The Seagulls, to their credit, kept on plugging away. Chris McPhee, brought on for McCammon, was unlucky when he headed against the bar following a long throw.

McGhee's men deserved something for their spirited second half display and Hammond duly provided it, heading in the first League goal of his career from a free-kick by fellow substitute Paul Watson with seven minutes remaining.

ALBION (4-4-2): Shaaban; Reid, Hinshelwood, Butters, Harding; Hart, Nicholas, Oatway, Knight; Virgo, McCammon. Subs: Watson for Reid (withdrawn, 66), Mayo, McPhee for McCammon (withdrawn, 72), Hammond for Nicolas (withdsrawn, 54), May.

Bookings: Knight (27), unsporting behaviour, Hart (78) unsporting behaviour.

Scorers: Virgo (36), Hammond (83).

Wigan (4-4-2): Filan; Eaden, Wright, Breckin, Baines; Teale, Bullard, Kavanagh, McCulloch; Ellington, Roberts. Subs: Jackson, Graham, Johansson, Walsh, Jarrett for Bullard (withdrawn, 84).

Bookings: Wright (24) foul, Bullard (73) foul.

Scorers: Bullard (2), McCulooch (4), Teale (17), Roberts (34).

Attendance: 6,306.

Fans View.

Peter Frost (Brighton)

You cant give a side as good as Wigan a four-goal lead and expect to get anything out of the game. Our defence has been solid most of the season but individual errors have drained confidence. I am afraid to say that we are missing Danny Cullip and Darren Currie. We really need to get behind the lads now.

Colin South (Hassocks)

If we hadnt crumbled so early in the game, it could have been a different story. Things perked up in the second half when we scored and we created quite a few chances. Mark McCammon played well and made his presence felt.

Val French (Shoreham)

We Can't blame the referee for this defeat! Our defence couldnt cope with the speed, skill and movement of their front two and our midfield was second best. Although Adam Virgo scored, we need him more at the other end of the pitch. Leon Knight would be more dangerous playing up front.

Harry Burrows (Wigan fan)

No disrespect to Brighton but this was a comfortable victory. In the first half, we looked like scoring with every attack. Jimmy Bullard's goal was an absolute screamer and Graham Kavanagh ran the midfield all night. We took our foot off the gas in the second half but the result was never in doubt. It was just a shame Sunderland and Ipswich also won.