OXFORD United dug deep to beat Wigan Athletic and move out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone.

The visitors were by far the better side in the first half and could have gone ahead in the dying moments, only for Rob Atkinson to see his header cleared off the line.

Wigan matched their opponents in the early stages of the second period, but Matty Taylor fired United ahead just after the hour mark to give them a deserved lead.

James Henry slid home Sean Clare’s cross late on to seemingly seal the points, before Thelo Aasgaard made the U’s sweat as he halved the deficit seconds later.

But Karl Robinson’s side showed some encouraging resilience to hold on and rise to 19th in the table.

As anticipated, the U's boss rung the changes following Tuesday night’s 2-0 home defeat to Crewe Alexandra.

Atkinson returned from injury to partner Elliott Moore in the heart of defence, with Sam Long moving across to right back and Clare dropping to the bench.

Jordan Obita made his first league start on the left of a front three, while Liam Kelly and Marcus McGuane came in, with Anthony Forde, Mark Sykes and Mide Shodipo among the substitutes.

United knew they had to improve on the Crewe performance and started brightly, Obita forcing a corner in the first minute.

In a half where the visitors had all the chances Taylor would have been disappointed not to open the scoring 12 minutes in.

A free-kick was played short to Henry on the right and his outswinging cross was not dealt with by Wigan keeper Jamie Jones, but the ball bounced off United’s No 9 and looped over the bar.

Taylor had another chance three minutes later when he met Obita’s early cross from the left, but did not make good contact and the Latics smuggled it away.

McGuane was another in the thick of the action early on and would have opened his U’s account soon after had it not been for a fine save from Jones down to his left.

It all got a bit scrappy from Robinson’s side midway through the half, drawing fears that they would be punished for not capitalising on their impressive start.

But Wigan failed to muster a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes, with United shackling their opponents well.

Jones needed to be at his best to deny Obita on the stroke of half-time, but the visitors’ best opportunity of the first period was still to come.

With stoppage time already elapsed Kelly swung in a corner that was met firmly by Atkinson, who saw his header cleared off the line by Kyle Joseph.

Neither side made use of the new rule allowing five substitutes at the break, with United looking to pick up where they left off.

They again looked to set the tempo, but should have found themselves 1-0 down nine minutes into the second half.

A free-kick from the right slipped out of Eastwood’s fingers, but among a scrum of bodies the ball was poked just wide of the post.

Wigan were left to rue the missed chance as Taylor put United ahead in predatory fashion in the 62nd minute.

McGuane did well to dig out a cross on the left and he found Taylor, who swivelled ten yards out and fired home for his fourth goal of the season.

The U’s had the wind in their sails and Taylor almost struck again 60 seconds later, only for Jones to palm the long-range effort wide.

Moore nodded the resulting corner down into the ground but saw the ball bounce off the upright and away.

Taylor again forced Jones into a save with a 67th-minute header, before Sykes, Clare and Shodipo replaced McGuane, Kelly and Obita.

Wigan raised their game, but the U’s doubled the lead with a ruthless break as Taylor fed Clare to cut back for Henry, who beat Jones from 12 yards.

Aasgaard made the U’s sweat as he flashed a header past Eastwood almost immediately after, but the visitors held firm to claim a vital three points.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Jones, James, Tilt, Obi, Pearce, Massey (Aasgaard 83), Palmer (Perry 70), Merrie, Gardner (Crankshaw 71), Garner, Joseph.

Unused subs: Evans, Jolley, Baningime, Robinson.

Booked: James, Merrie.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Eastwood, Long, Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Gorrin, Kelly (Clare 78), McGuane (Sykes 70), Henry (Mousinho 89), Taylor (Agyei 89), Obita (Shodipo 78).

Unused subs: Stevens, Mousinho, Forde, Agyei.

Booked: Gorrin.

Referee: Paul Howard (London)