Bolton moved off the foot of the table with their first win – and first points – since the opening day of the season, but they did it the hard way. Chris Eagles was the Wanderers' hero, creating the first goal and scoring the clincher. In between, he was one of the guilty men in an extraordinary sequence of missed opportunities to make the game safe.
"We scored three goals, but we could have had five or six today," said a relieved Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, of the end of a six-match losing streak. "When you've lost the number of games we have, you've got to get up and running. It was great to see it all come together today."
If the managing director of Liverpool, Ian Ayre, is right about nobody in Kuala Lumpur being too fussed about watching Bolton, then the good citizens of the Malaysian capital are presumably equally lukewarm about the attractions of Wigan. They might have been pleasantly surprised, however, with what they saw from Bolton in the opening stages yesterday.
After four minutes, Eagles, the summer signing from Coyle's old club, Burnley, found himself in the clear on the right and whipped in a nasty low cross to the near post. A combination of Nigel Reo-Coker and Gary Caldwell bundled it into the net, although the replay suggested that it was the Latics' defender who had got the crucial touch. Eagles, whose career has not exactly taken flight since he landed at Bolton, was soon causing further trouble, this time cutting in and testing Ali Al Habsi, the goalkeeper Wigan loaned and then bought from Wanderers, with the outside of his right foot. A one-two between Eagles and David Ngog forced Al Habsi to save from the winger with his feet and he had to be alert again to deny Kevin Davies when the Bolton captain brought down a long clearance.
By contrast, Jussi Jaaskelainen, unsurprisingly reinstated after his stand-in, Adam Bogdan, was implicated in at least two of Chelsea's five goals a fortnight ago, had next to nothing to do, although David Wheater, a reassuring presence at the back all afternoon had to make a timely tackle on Franco di Santo.
The goalkeeper's workload consisted of dealing with a couple of corners from Ben Watson, but that all changed in the 40th minute. It was Watson's bustling run that created the chance, and Mohamed Diamé's curling shot from the edge of the area left Jaaskelainen helpless. After controlling so much of the first half and after some hammerings by top clubs in the opening two months of the season, Bolton could have been frustrated and wrong-footed by that turn of events.
"It would have been easy for them to feel sorry for themselves," Coyle said. Instead, they regained the lead in the time added on, Davies dispossessing Steve Gohouri, who was having a thoroughly uncomfortable afternoon, and squaring the ball for Ngog to claim his first goal for the club.
Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, brought on two substitutes for the second half, including Hugo Rodallega, who at least produced a shot that had to be saved. It should all have been academic when Bolton had three gilt-edged chances in two minutes. Dedryck Boyata missed with a close-range diving header. Then, Reo-Coker and Davies set up Eagles, whose shot was tame and saved easily. Finally, and most scandalously, a penalty awarded for Caldwell's push on Boyata was thumped straight at Al Habsi by Davies.
It all added up to an invitation to Wigan that they could have taken up when Di Santo almost got onto the end of Victor Moses' cross. In stoppage time, though, all doubt was removed when the substitute, Ivan Klasnic, won the ball inside the Wigan area and Eagles finished coolly. "I feel really disappointed, because we gifted them three points today," said Martinez. "The hardest thing in football is scoring goals and we made it extremely easy."
Wigan (4-5-1): Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Gohouri (Figueroa h-t); Moses, Jones, Diamé, Watson (Rodallega h-t), McCarthy (Maloney, 74); Di Santo.
Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Boyata, Cahill, Wheater, Robinson; Eagles (M Davies, 90), Reo-Coker, Pratley, Petrov (Gardner, 87); K Davies, Ngog (Klasnic, 83).
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Eagles (Bolton)
Match rating: 6/10