WIigan overcame a double disruption to take a deserved three points from a feisty if rarely sophisticated Lancashire derby and climb to seventh in the Premier League.
Latics lost their goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, when he strained a groin in the warm-up and their main attacking focus, Emile Heskey, when he limped off with a hamstring strain after half an hour.
But Heskey's replacement, Henri Camara, won the penalty that gave them the lead – a lead that Kirkland's stand-in, the Bolton-born-and-bred Mike Pollitt, helped preserve.
The much-travelled Pollitt was not even supposed to be on the bench as Wigan planned to rotate their reserve keepers. But Steve Bruce had no hesitation in promoting him for his first game since the start of the season. He did not disappoint. "He's done fantastic," was his manager's verdict.
Pollitt had the reassurance of playing behind a generally calm and composed back-four, typified by the way Paul Scharner made a superb tackle to take the ball away from Kevin Davies after Johan Elmander had found him in the penalty area.
If that was Bolton's best chance, then Wigan's began to arrive with the enforced introduction of Camara. He tested Jussi Jaaskelainen after Kevin Nolan had given the ball away and both Lee Cattermole and Titus Bramble had efforts saved before the incident that decided the match.
Wilson Palacios put a cross in from the left and Andy O'Brien, having got on the wrong side of his man, was climbing all over Camara even before the ball arrived. Bruce described it as "a stonewall penalty" and it was hard to argue with that. Amr Zaki put it away from the spot for his 11th goal of the season and Bolton only threatened fitfully after that to get back on terms.
The closest they came was when Palacios headed off the line to deny Danny Shittu's near-post flick from Matthew Taylor's in-swinging corner.
"We thought it was over the line," said the Bolton manager, Gary Megson. He also saw Pollitt make a splendid double save as well as his best player on the day, Shittu, hit the cross-bar late on. "But we didn't play well at all today," he admitted. "But credit to Wigan. They were really, really solid today." But then, as Bruce said: "It's no fluke that we're in the top half of the table. Blackburn and Bolton have done it; why can't it be our turn?"
It could be their turn this season, judging by their Christmas form, although Bruce is still nervous about losing players in the transfer window.
Megson sees January in a different light. "We need to bring players in," he said – and his side looked in need of a transfusion of new blood yesterday.
Goal: Zaki pen (44) 0-1. Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Shittu, O'Brien, Samuel (Riga, 64); M Taylor, Nolan (Muamba, 64), McCann, Gardner (Obadeyi, 86); Davies, Elmander. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Smolarek, Basham, Fojut. Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa; Valencia, Palacios, Cattermole, R Taylor (Kilbane, 86); Zaki (Brown, 90), Heskey (Camara, 32). Substitutes not used: Kingson (gk), Boyce, Koumas, de Ridder. Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire). Booked: Bolton Nolan, Steinsson; Wigan R Taylor, Palacios. Man of the Match: Scharner. Attendance: 23,726.Reuse content