Wigan’s first home appearance in Europe will live long in the memory after an impressive 3-1 victory over Slovenian champions Maribor at the DW Stadium.
That set up a nervy finish, but Powell struck in injury-time to seal the win.
Victory moves the Latics into second in Group D, two points off pacesetters Rubin Kazan who they meet in their next two Europa League fixtures.
Wigan started the match at a frantic tempo and grabbed the lead in comical circumstances when Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovic somehow punched a clearance behind him, leaving the lingering Powell with the simple task of heading home from inside the six yard box.
And just as Maribor were starting to assert themselves the hosts grabbed a second when Jean Beausejour’s cross from the left was headed home by Watson.
Wigan missed a host of chances to wrap up the three points and were almost left to rue those wasted opportunities when Tavares latched onto Jean-Philippe Mendy’s cutback to half the deficit.
The Maribor star would then have grabbed a last-minute leveller but for a terrific one-handed Scott Carson save.
And Powell made sure of the result as he raced down the other end, beat a couple of opponents and slotted past Handanovic.
22’ – GOAL: Wigan 1-0 Maribor: Beausejour's cross deflects high into the Wigan sky and Handanovic comes to punch clear. It's a terrible punch which loops behind him towards Nick Powell who can't miss. Wigan have scored their first ever European goal!
33’ – GOAL: Wigan 2-0 Maribor: Wigan knock the ball about for ages in the middle before Gomez eventually switches it out to the left. Beausejour whips in a cross and Watson diverts it past Handanovic with his head. Wigan are going to win the Europa League…
36’ – CHANCE: Another terrible mistake puts Powell through on goal. But the Man United loanee attempts a daft chip which sails over the bar. Surely he should have lashed that at goal? Wigan may rue that miss...
55’ – POST: Beausejour, involved again, flashes the ball across the area. Powell is arriving at the back post. He must score but his effort strikes the post... Rolls along the line... And doesn't go in! Wow. Still 2-0.
58’ – CHANCE: McManaman drives at his opposite number and sends in another low cross. It deflects out towards Beausejour. He has so much time to pick his spot, but he can't find the net.
60’ – GOAL: Wigan 2-1 Maribor: Shotton gets too close to Mendy and is turned with ease. The Maribor forward shrugs off Shotton's next challenge before cutting it back to Tavares who fires into the net. From nowhere, Maribor are back in this.
90’ – SAVE: Great link up by Maribor finds Tavares in space on the edge of the area. He shoots... It's destined for the top corner... But Carson pulls off a stunning one-handed save to tip it over the bar!
90+1’ – GOAL: Wigan 3-1 Maribor: A hopeful ball through the middle soon finds its way to Powell. He strolls past one yellow shirt, then a second... Can he seal it for Wigan? He can! The Latics are going to win on their home European debut!
Wigan have a 100 per cent record at home in Europe – played one, won one.
Maribor have lost their last four Europa League matches.
TALKING POINT: Will Wigan’s success in Europe hamper their league progress? Whilst winning in Europe is a tremendous achievement, Wigan’s primary objective this season is to bounce back into the Premier League. With an already demanding domestic schedule it remains to be seen whether they have the squad to cope with the 60 odd games they can expect to play this season should their Europa League run continue.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jean Beausejour (Wigan): Caused havoc down the left flank and played a pivotal role in both of Wigan’s first-half goals.
Wigan: Carson 7, Shotton 5, Boyce 8, Perch 7, Barnett 6, Beausejour 8, Watson 8, McArthur 7, Gomez 7, McManaman 8, Powell 8… Subs: McCann 6, McClean 6.
Maribor: Handanovic 4, Filipovic 4, Milec 5, Mejac 5, Tavares 7, Mendy 7, Cvijanovic 6, Rajcevic 5, Bohar 4, Arghus 4, Mertelj 5… Subs: Mezga 6, Fajic 5, Viler 5.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET