OXFORD United suffered a nightmare before Christmas as they were blown away by Sky Bet League One leaders Wigan Athletic.

The defeat was their heaviest ever for a home league game and equalled their record league result, the 7-0 loss at Sunderland in 1998.

A shell-shocked United looked beaten before the half-hour mark, when Gavin Massey put the leaders 3-0 up.

But the trouble really began just after the break, when Will Grigg took advantage of some woeful defending to complete his hat-trick with two goals in as many minutes.

Plenty of home fans had left before Max Power’s brace turned a thrashing into a record-breaking afternoon.

Most of those who were left in the Kassam Stadium at full-time booed off the team, who will have a big task to regroup in time for the trip to Gillingham on Boxing Day.

Ricardinho replaced Canice Carroll at left back in the only change from the goalless draw at Rochdale a week earlier.

United boss Pep Clotet had stressed in the build-up of the importance not to give a powerful Wigan side any gifts.

Blackburn Rovers, similarly well-resourced in League One, had been allowed to race into a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes a month ago.

This game was different – it took Wigan 29 minutes to open up a three-goal lead.

The visitors had looked dangerous before they scored in the tenth minute, when United were caught on the ball in their own half.

Jacobs was found in the penalty area and he pulled the ball back for Grigg to sweep a shot into the far corner from 12 yards.

Dwight Tiendalli was involved in giving possession away and the same thing happened two minutes later, when Jacobs was only denied a goal by Simon Eastwood racing out of his goal to smother.

It was men against boys, with a one-paced United crowded out all over the pitch as Wigan sensed an opportunity.

The second goal arrived in the 18th minute, when Powell lost his marker to plant a header from six yards into the net from a corner.

United were being overwhelmed and Eastwood did well to tip over a firm Grigg header after Nathan Byrne had got the better of Alex Mowatt out wide.

But it only delayed the inevitable and boos rang out from the home fans when Massey fired a low shot into the far corner before the game was 30 minutes old.

It could have been even worse for Clotet’s side before the break, but Lee Evans’s shot cannoned off the crossbar and out to safety.

There were ironic cheers when United mustered their first attempt on goal – a Jack Payne header deflected wide – in the 43rd minute.

Josh Ruffels headed the resulting corner upwards and goalkeeper Christian Walton, who was probably pleased to have something to do, gathered comfortably.

The loudest round of applause from the U’s support came for Wigan boss Paul Cook, who instructed his side to play the ball out of play after referee Tom Nield awarded them a baffling free-kick.

Clotet had to change something at the break and responded by bringing Jon Obika and Joe Rothwell for Payne and Xemi.

For the briefest of moments United made the game into a contest, with Obika forcing a couple of quick corners.

But Grigg stamped out the faint hope with two goals in two minutes.

First, he slammed home after outmuscling John Mousinho, before the U’s skipper inexplicably put the ball on a plate for him inside the six-yard box.

The striker could not believe his luck and prodded in past an aghast Eastwood to complete his hat-trick.

Massey had provided the goal and his pace proved too hot to handle again just after the hour mark, cutting the ball back for Power to convert.

The handful of fans who decided to leave at 4-0 down became a steady stream and even the banners in the East Stand were taken down.

Power’s fierce strike from just inside the box added a seventh goal There were still 13 minutes remaining, but Wigan eased off late on, perhaps conserving energy with the busy festive period in mind.

Those home fans still in the ground cheered ironically when Rothwell had their first effort on target, which came after 88 minutes.

It summed up a truly awful afternoon for United, who have little time to put it right before the visit to Priestfield on Tuesday.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Tiendalli, Williamson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Xemi (Rothwell HT), Ruffels (Ledson 61), Henry, Payne (Obika HT), Mowatt, Thomas.

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Carroll, Van Kessel.

Booked: Xemi, Mousinho.

Wigan Ath (4-2-3-1): Walton, Burn, Dunkley, Byrne, James, Morsy, Jacobs (Roberts 79), Powell (Power 56), Massey, Grigg.

Unused subs: Sarkic, Bruce, Elder, Colclough, Toney.

Booked: None.

Referee: Tom Nield (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 7,957 (462 visitors).