WIGAN Athletic gave themselves a real shot in the arm as they relieved their near-neighbours of three priceless points.
Goals from Gary Caldwell and James McArthur ensured Latics avenged the 3-1 home defeat in the corresponding fixture back in October.
While that performance was arguably Wigan’s worst of the campaign, this one was up there with the best as they dominated from the first minute to the last.
Sure they needed McArthur’s late strike to secure the points, but it was no more than they deserved for a real show of unity where everyone stood up to be counted.
Having taken the lead through Caldwell’s bullet header just before the break, Latics were pegged back by Mark Davies’s stunning strike midway through the second half - totally against the run of play.
However, Wigan remained positive despite the setback, and were rewarded when McArthur slotted home with 15 minutes left after good work by Victor Moses.
And unlike last week against Everton - when they conceded a late equaliser - the time Latics held on for all three points, which were secured when Ali Al Habsi pulled off a super stop to deny Bolton substitute Ryo Miyaichi with five minutes left.
Roberto Martinez had made only one change to his side, bringing back Antolin Alcaraz for Ronnie Stam in a switch that saw Emmerson Boyce revert to right wing-back.
And the visitors made decent start to a game they knew they had to win to give them a lifeline at the bottom.
After confusion between Caldwell and McArthur had seen them concede an unnecessary first-minute corner, Latics bossed the opening stages and they looked dangerous when they broke in numbers towards the Bolton goal.
Moses, in particular, was seeing plenty of ball as Wigan looked to counter, the winger seeing a goalbound effort well blocked by the home defence.
The other side of Moses’ game was then evident when he carelessly gave the ball away in midfield, allowing Bolton to mount their first real attack.
Fortunately for Latics, Caldwell was on hand to snuff out the danger as David Ngog fired at goal.
There was a lengthy delay as Bolton’s Sam Ricketts received treatment after an innoccuous challange from Jordi Gomez, the Wigan man meaning no harm but clearly catching his opponent high with his studs.
Latics quickly reasserted their control and fashioned three half-chances in quick succession.
First, some great inter-play between Boyce, Franco di Santo, James McCarthy and Moses resulted in the winger shooting into the side-netting when he ought to have tested Adam Bogdan.
Then Di Santo himself worked some space for himself outside the box and was unlucky to see his shot whizz just over the bar, before Boyce was freed down the right channel by some fine passing only to hit the first man with his cross.
Di Santo was making a real nuisance of himself, and won a free-kick on the edge of the Bolton box for a foul by David Wheater.
The set-piece came to nothing, but the subsequent corner from Jean Beausejour led to McCarthy unleashing a daisy-cutter that only just evaded the far post.
As half-time, approached, Latics continued to dominate, leading the the home fans to start to get agitated at the lack of ball their side was seeing.
Twice more Boyce managed to get himself into good crossing positions down the right only to fail to find a Wigan shirt, while Beausejour was off-target with a good opportunity of his own down the left.
The Chilean then led another promising breakaway, but his pass to McCarthy was delayed too long and denied the Irish international any real hope of getting in behind Ricketts.
As Latics again attacked down the left, Di Santo this time cut in and it needed a touch round the post from Bogdan to keep the ball out.
With two minutes of the half left, it was imperative Latics made their almost total dominance pay on the scoresheet.
And they managed to do just that when, from the resulting corner, Beausejour’s delivery was met firmly by the head of Caldwell for his second goal of the season.
With only seconds of the half remaining, Latics would have been forgiven for sitting back and consolidating their advantage.
But they broke in numbers almost immediately and only a crude lunge from Nigel Reo-Coker - for which he was cautioned - on Beausejour slowed them down.
After being booed off at the break, there would have been some harsh words in the Bolton dressing room during the interval.
Owen Coyle’s response was to replace Martin Petrov with new signing Miyaichi.
But it was Wigan who picked up where they’d left off - and they should have doubled their advantage within moments of the restart.
Di Santo was again the instigator, with the ball finding its way to the feet of Boyce.
But with time and space, the defender pulled his shot horribly wide from 10 yards.
Boyce was again the centre of attention nine minutes in when Latics were denied what looked to be a stonewall penalty by Howard Webb.
McArthur played the ball through intelligently inside the full-back, and Boyce was taken out by Miyaichi as he tried to get on the end of it.
The official further angered the visitors a minute later when Kevin Davies sent Maynor Figueroa into orbit with an awful sliding lunge on the far touchline, which warranted only a yellow card according to the man with the whistle when others would surely have brandished red.
Credit Latics, they didn’t let it affect them and some wonderful wing play from Moses should have brought about the second goal on the hour mark.
But after a lovely lay-off from Moses, McArthur could only side-foot straight at Adam Bogdan from the edge of the six-yard box.
Tuncay and Ivan Klasnic appeared for the final half hour as Coyle played his last hand, before Latics were pegged back in the harshest of circumstances.
A long ball from halfway hit an unsuspecting Ngog on the back of the head, the ball bouncing out to Davies 25 yards from goal.
The midfielder swung his left foot as the ball sat up nicely, and it arrowed right into the top corner with Al Habsi - up to that point a virtual spectator - absolutely helpless.
It was hard to believe Latics weren’t already out of sight, let alone being pegged back to level terms.
But they had to start all over again with the home side now sensing an unlikely victory.
Figueroa came out of nowhere to deflect a Klasnic shot to safety, before Martinez threw on Hugo Rodallega for the last 17 minutes.
Interestingly, Gomez was the man to make way for the Colombian, the Latics chief feeling that the match was still there for the taking - which it clearly was.
And footballing justice was done within three minutes, as Latics regained the lead.
Wheater and Greitar Steinsson jumped for the same ball allowing Moses to advance, with three team-mates in support and only one defender back.
Ignoring the opportunity to slide in Rodallega for a tap-in, Moses shot for goal and saw Bogdan save with his legs.
But the ball rebounded into the path of McArthur, who side-footed home from close range to the delight of the away fans behind the goal.
It was no more than Latics deserved, and their task for the second week in a row was to see out a game that was all-but won.
The initial signs were good, as the visitors retained possession with comparable ease despite the home side’s urgency to win it back.
Wigan hearts were in mouths with five minutes left when Ngog played in Miyaichi for a one-on-one with Al Habsi.
The on-loan Arsenal man did everything right, taking a touch and smashing the ball towards the far post.
But Al Habsi - who had still to make a save in the game - leapt to his left and somehow pushed the ball past the post with his fingertips.
Latics had a great chance to wrap up the points in the last minute when Rodallega and Di Santo attacked against the last defender, but the former got the ball trapped between his feet and the chance had gone.
At the other end, Klasnic’s cross was played back to him by Ngog, but the substitute couldn’t make the most of it and his shot was well wide of the target.
Latics: Al Habsi 7; Alcaraz 8, Caldwell 8, Figueroa 8; Boyce 8, McCarthy 9, McArthur 9, Beausejour 8; Gomez 7, Moses 8; Di Santo 8.
Subs: Nicholls, Stam, Watson, Jones (for Di Santo, 90), Diame, Crusat, Rodallega (for Gomez, 73).
Bolton: Bogdan; Steinsson, Wheater, Knight, Ricketts; Eagles, Reo-Coker, M Davies, Petrov; Davies, Ngog.
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Miyaichi (for Petrov, 46), Muamba, Pratley, Tuncay (for Eagles, 58), Klasnic (for K Davies, 62).
Star Man: James McArthur - Immense presence, just about edged his former Hamilton colleague McCarthy by virtue of his winning goal.
Referee: Howard Webb