Bacterial pathogens deliver multiple effector proteins into eukaryotic cells to subvert host cellular processes and an emerging theme is the cooperation between different effectors. Here, we reveal that a fine balance exists between effectors that are delivered by enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) which, if perturbed can have marked consequences on the outcome of the infection. We show that absence of the EPEC effector Tir confers onto the bacterium a potent ability to destroy polarized intestinal epithelia through extensive host cell detachment. This process was dependent on the EPEC effectors EspG and EspG2 through their activation of the host cysteine protease calpain. EspG and EspG2 are shown to activate calpain during EPEC infection, which increases significantly in the absence of Tir – leading to rapid host cell loss and necrosis. These findings reveal a new function for EspG and EspG2 and show that Tir, independent of its bacterial ligand Intimin, is essential for maintaining the integrity of the epithelium during EPEC infection by keeping the destructive activity of EspG and EspG2 in check.