Match ends, Sheffield United 4, Wigan Athletic 2.
Billy Sharp says Sheffield United will have to keep grinding out results if they want to stay in the automatic promotion race after he hit a hat-trick to help them beat Wigan Athletic and return to the top of the Championship.
The Blades are two points clear in the second tier after their closest rivals Middlesbrough and Leeds United both drew on Saturday.
"We were sloppy at times but we managed to get the three points," the United captain told BBC Radio Sheffield.
"Wigan came here and tried to give it a go and that helped us a little bit. If we hadn't been so clinical in the final third we would probably have been punished.
"We need to keep grinding out results like we did today, when we were not at our best. That is why we came up short last season."
Latics defender Chey Dunkley deflected Chris Basham's low cross into his own net to give the Blades the lead midway through the first half, but Kal Naismith fired in to equalise for the visitors six minutes before the break.
Sharp netted from inside the box to restore their lead on the stroke of half-time and then guided in Leon Clarke's left-wing cross to make it 3-1 eight minutes after the restart.
And the 32-year-old chipped Christian Walton from six yards out to complete his treble, notching his 11th goal of the season, before Joe Garner hooked in to pull one back for Wigan, who fell to their sixth straight away defeat in the league.
"We knew about the result in the early-kick off, which was good for us and gave us a chance to go back top," added Sharp.
"We managed to do our job and hopefully we will put on a better performance next week."
Wigan had the early chances but the Blades scored from their first attack and eventually took control to extend their unbeaten home run to seven matches.
Sharp's clinical finishing proved crucial as he netted his first hat-trick since August 2008, when he was in his second spell with hometown club.
There could have been further goals in the closing stages, as Jack O'Connell headed against the Wigan crossbar from Oliver Norwood's corner and Blades keeper Dean Henderson had to tip over Reece James' free-kick.
Chris Wilder's men have now lost just once in their past eight matches, while Paul Cook's Latics have lost six consecutive league games on the road for the first time since May 2010, when they were in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder told BBC Radio Sheffield:
"It was not a very good performance, not up to the standards that we have set.
"It was just one of those days where we were a little bit lax, a little bit slack, but good in both boxes, and won a game that was a lot tighter than the scoreline suggests.
"It was a great return from Billy Sharp, because of the way we play and the demands we put on players, we have to use our squad, and he worked his way into the team.
"It was quite subdued in the dressing room, but we are all delighted we are top of the division."
Wigan manager Paul Cook told BBC Radio Manchester:
"Sheffield United are the outstanding team in the division, they work so hard for each other, they are capable of mixing the game up and play football with the best of them.
"We knew how hard it would be to come here, but they didn't have to do a lot to win the game, to be honest, and that's a massive disappointment.
"We had a few great opportunities, we got into good areas, but we are in an unforgiving league, and teams score goals against us without really earning that right.
"If we want to improve our away form, we must play a lot better than we did today."
- 6BashamBooked at 80mins
- 4FleckBooked at 90mins
- 10SharpSubstituted forWashingtonat 88'minutes
- 17McGoldrickBooked at 18minsSubstituted forCouttsat 62'minutes
- 26ConnollyBooked at 50minsSubstituted forGarnerat 58'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 25PowellSubstituted forMcManamanat 67'minutes
- 18RobertsSubstituted forNaismithat 36'minutes
- 19Da Silva Lopes
- Tony Harrington
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Sheffield United 4, Wigan Athletic 2.
Attempt saved. Joe Garner (Wigan Athletic) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Nathan Byrne with a cross.
Attempt saved. Joe Garner (Wigan Athletic) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Callum McManaman with a cross.
Foul by Kieron Freeman (Sheffield United).
Kal Naismith (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Kal Naismith.
Attempt blocked. Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is blocked.
Joe Garner (Wigan Athletic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jack O'Connell (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joe Garner (Wigan Athletic).
John Fleck (Sheffield United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Enda Stevens (Sheffield United).
Callum McManaman (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Conor Washington (Sheffield United).
Dan Burn (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Conor Washington replaces Billy Sharp.
Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Garner (Wigan Athletic).
Offside, Wigan Athletic. Nathan Byrne tries a through ball, but Callum McManaman is caught offside.