Photo Gallery: Norwich City look at home in the Premier League
Wigan Athletic 1, Norwich City 1: Make no mistake, the Premier League is lucky to have Norwich City.
One entire stand of Wigan's sterile DW Stadium was bathed in a sea of green and yellow behind the goal Paul Lambert's men attacked in the second half.
A small but vocal pocket of Wiganers closest to the away end sang '1-0 to the empty seats,' following Ben Watson's spot-kick opener. Not quite.
But without the Canaries' travelling support swelling the crowd, Roberto Martinez's men would have ran out to a cacophony of polite applause.
Wigan is a Rugby League enclave of historic repute. The mere fact Athletic were embarking on their seventh consecutive Premier League campaign is both a testament to Dave Whelan's generosity and proof – should anyone connected with Norwich need it – that survival is more than a pipedream.
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Let the bookmakers of the land chalk up their skinny odds on an instant Championship return.
No-one in this part of the world is under any illusions regarding the size of the task, let alone Lambert. Norwich have already been written off long before referee Stuart Attwell unbuttoned his shirt pocket to flash a yellow card in David Fox's face barely 30 seconds into the action.
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The chasm is too wide. Norwich, despite their productive summer recruitment drive, do not possess sufficient quality to bridge the gap. Lambert and his collection of young, hungry players will be out of their depth. Not on this evidence.
Wigan may be a modest benchmark. Under Martinez, two consecutive 16th-placed finishes is hardly the stamp of a top-flight club going places.
But, as Lambert quite rightly pointed out post-match, they are established. Time and television money have been plentiful in helping them bed in the foundations for survival.
Norwich have needed cement of the quick-drying variety after freefalling into League One.
Lambert and whatever players he has put on the park over the past two seasons have been good enough. League tables do not lie.
Norwich's accelerated progress through and out of the Football League was forged on attacking football. Lambert sees no reason to abandon his philosophy.
Revision rather than revolution. Norwich were far too open for the Scot's liking at times against a Wigan outfit with the raw pace and aggression of Victor Moses fused with the energy of Franco Di Santo and later in the second half the guile of Hugo Rodallega. Lambert's managerial pedigree is without question. But he is no miracle worker. It will take more than 90 minutes of Premier League combat to refine a style capable of ensuring Norwich can look forward to another top-flight opener 12 months hence.
City's travelling support and the thousands who stayed behind in Norfolk and further afield know a good thing when they see one. Lambert joked to the assembled media on Friday morning he would be gone if he lost nine in a row. Fat chance.
Lambert strode out of the changing rooms dressed in the familiar dark tracksuit. Gone the grey suit he donned for the pre-season games. A simple sartorial signpost that screamed the real business was upon us. Finally.
The roar that greeted the break-up of City's huddle reverberated around this compact stadium. The silence from the home fans was deafening. City's support base had demonstrated they were not about to be intimidated.
Fox's lunge at Di Santo within the first minute indicated the players felt the same way. Attwell was in a less-than-charitable mood. Ritchie De Laet earned a lecture after complaining about a shirt pull inside the Norwich box with Di Santo. A precursor to their pivotal roles in the defining act of the opening quarter.
Wes Hoolahan found a sliver of space on half-way after a well-timed tackle from that renowned midfield enforcer Andrew Surman.
Steve Morison peeled wide right. Grant Holt drifted to the left. Hoolahan picked out neither. Wigan's back-tracking midfield converged to rob the Irish talisman.
It was the first, but not the last, reminder for the visitors they were now operating in rarefied air – speed of thought and movement appears exponentially quicker in the best league in the world.
Morison was acclimatising faster than most. A measured cut-back for the on-rushing Hoolahan who miscued. If at first you don't succeed. De Laet dallied. Di Santo was away. The Argentinian's galloping stride more than a match for the Belgian's blistering pace.
De Laet ranged alongside. Di Santo went down. The assistant referee was no more than 10 yards from the incident.
Muted protests from Norwich players told their own story. Move the same incident 240-odd miles south and situate it right in front of the Barclay and most would have expected the same outcome. Watson composed himself to rifle past John Ruddy.
Di Santo would try his luck again in the dying embers of the first half when Russell Martin hung out a leg in front of the massed ranks of Norwich followers.
Martin admonished the South American. A collective exhale of breath followed when Attwell waved away the Wigan frontman's protests.
If Lambert could bottle De Laet's response to his particular setback, those bookmakers would be running for cover.
The young Manchester United loanee had finished only one previous Premier League game in his entire career. Forget the blue chip pedigree. This was just as big a day for him.
The 20-year-old's double block in the eye of a gathering home storm late on arguably preserved a point. Time and again during the second half his positional play and clean tackling quelled the danger at source.
City collectively were a different proposition after the equaliser – Morison and Hoolahan's role reversal paying dividends. Allied to more than a little help from Ali Al Habsi, who spilled the Welsh international's innocuous looking cross in the closing seconds of the opening period.
The half-time whistle triggered another outburst from the away end. No longer were the empty seats in the ascendancy.
Martinez made a double substitution within 10 minutes of the restart. Striking reinforcements in the shape of Conor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega. Fresh evidence Norwich were in control.
Lambert responded shortly afterwards with the introductions of Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington.
Battle was joined across the technical area as much as either side of the halfway line. Literally, when the two managers exchanged pleasantries over the award of a free-kick with fourth official Mike Dean quick to position himself between the duo to keep order.
The rangy Rodallega drifted the width of the Norwich 18-yard box before dragging an angled right-foot shot back across his body destined for the far corner until Ruddy extended his six-foot plus frame.
The excellent Moses capitalised on Surman's weak pass to line up a trio of City defenders on a penetrating dart into the Norwich box, but Zak Whitbread came across.
The former Crystal Palace man was the fulcrum of Wigan's final push. Pace and touch brought a viciously curling clearance under control before the awareness to roll in Watson who drilled a right-footer Ruddy could only watch thud the base of a post and away to safety.
Norwich voices were momentarily quiet.
This was the white hot heat of battle, and Lambert's men were in uncharted territory.
De Laet pickpocketed Emmerson Boyce, but the respite was temporary.Moses swerved between Ruddy and Leon Barnett. City's goal was unguarded. Moses fed Rodallega, but De Laet blocked.
Not once but twice. It was Premier League defending of the highest order. It was character-building. The Belgian is clearly made of the right stuff. So are his team-mates. So are the fans.
The rest of the Premier League will find out soon enough.