Newcastle's bid for Champions League qualification suffered a reality check on Saturday as Wigan eased their relegation fears with a thumping 4-0 win over the Magpies.
Newcastle had dared to dream of winning a place in European football's elite competition after moving into the top four of the Premier League last week with their sixth straight victory.
However Alan Pardew's side were blown away in a devastating first half display by Wigan, who scored four unanswered goals at the DW Stadium to move three points clear of the drop zone with two games remaining.
Wigan raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening quarter of an hour, Victor Moses (in pic) scoring a quickfire brace in the 13th and 15th minutes.
Shaun Maloney added a third for the Latics on 36 minutes before Franco Di Santo made it 4-0 with a long-range effort on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle boss Pardew blamed his side's loss on a lack of "intensity."
"Forget shape, systems and so on, intensity is everything in football," he said. "For the first two goals we were really loose and disorganised. It was not until half-time that we got back to our level and showed discipline.
"You'd have to say we got beat by the better team."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez hailed another fine display from his team, who have also notched wins over Arsenal and Manchester United in recent weeks.
"In every department of the club we know we need to work really hard to keep our dream alive and that comes with belief," he said.
"It's great to beat these sides but that means nothing if we can't achieve our aim. Our aim is to stay in the league and we haven't got enough points. We have two big games left, big finals."
Newcastle's surprise defeat saw Arsenal cement their grip on third place after battling to a 1-1 draw at Stoke.
Peter Crouch headed Stoke into the lead on nine minutes before Arsenal's newly-crowned Footballer of the Year Robin van Persie levelled on 15 minutes with his 35th goal of the season in all competitions.
The draw leaves the Gunners four points clear of fourth-placed Newcastle, and Arsene Wenger's men will guarantee their entry to next season's Champions League if they win their remaining games against Norwich and West Bromwich Albion.
With leaders Manchester United facing Manchester City on Monday, and Chelsea and Tottenham in action against QPR and Blackburn respectively on Sunday, Saturday's other games focused on the battle for survival.
Bolton's hopes of moving out of the bottom three were dashed after they could only draw 2-2 at Sunderland.
Veteran striker Kevin Davies got Bolton off to a dream start with a goal on 26 minutes before Sunderland levelled through Nicklas Bendtner nine minutes before half-time.
James McClean then pounced for Sunderland in the second half to put the Black Cats 2-1 up before Davies grabbed a second on 70 minutes to secure a share of the points for Owen Coyle's side.
Meanwhile Aston Villa remain in the relegation mire after scrapping to a 0-0 draw in a nervy midlands derby with West Brom.
Villa, who remain only three points off the bottom three, were given a huge slice of luck after referee Mark Clattenburg failed to spot an apparent handball on the goal-line from defender Alan Hutton.
Elsewhere, Everton scored four goals for a second week running as they romped to a 4-0 win over Fulham at Goodison Park that kept David Moyes' team in seventh place. Nikica Jelavic scored twice while Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill added one apiece in an easy win.
A bizarre game at the Liberty Stadium saw relegated Wolves fight back from 3-0 and 4-1 down to grab a 4-4 draw against Swansea.
Andrea Orlandi, Joe Allen, Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham helped put Swansea 4-2 up at half-time, with Wolves scoring through Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis.
Yet Wolves were given hope through David Edwards in the 54th minute before Jarvis grabbed his second on 69 minutes to make it 4-4.
Saturday's late kick-off sees Norwich face Liverpool at Carrow Road.