Warren Joyce hailed match-winner Jake Buxton after the vital 1-0 victory at Wolves that moves Wigan Athletic to within a couple of points of the Championship safety mark.
Buxton made his mark with three minutes to go to head home Max Power’s inviting right-wing corner - pretty much the visitors’ first real effort on goal all night.
But the Latics boss could not hide his delight - and relief - after a recent dip in results had seen them slip back into the relegation mire.
“We showed the lads a little video clip before the game, and and we asked leaders to show themselves from all areas,” revealed Joyce.
“And it didn’t have to be Buxton, and (Stephen) Warnock, and (Jussi) Jaaskelainen, and (David) Perkins, and (Shaun) MacDonald.
“It could be one of the younger lads coming out of the pack, and doing something special.
“But Jake’s certainly been a leader and a top pro since I’ve been at the football club, and he got his just desserts tonight for the way he conducts himself.”
Joyce also hailed the contribution of between the sticks of Matt Gilks - making his first start in the absence of injured first-choice goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard - whose brace of brilliant saves, either side of the goal, helped Latics preserve a precious clean sheet.
“Matt was there when he was needed,” acknowledged Joyce. “He’s an experienced goalkeeper and they were two very good saves.
“It was tough for him to come in the way he did (for Jakob) on Saturday, even more so given the fact he hadn’t played many games at Rangers.
“To step up tonight and do what he’s done, a good job for the team, was great.
“He’s another good bloke, someone you want in and around the dressing room.”
It was a much-needed three points for Latics, after a testing run of fixtures had seen them pick up only one point from a possible nine since their FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Manchester United last month.
“In the last three games, I think we’ve played against probably the best three teams I’ve faced in the Championship, if you look at the way they’ve played and the personnel,” added Joyce.
“Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Fulham...I thought had some outstanding players, but we’ve certainly not come off second best in any of them.
“We could probably have come away with nine points - and we got one.
“We certainly weren’t over-awed, we weren’t over-run, we dealt with all the problems that were thrown at us.
“We were dealt a few kicks in the teeth, and it took a lot of character to come to Wolves and stand up to them and their backing in the stadium.
“They’re desperate to get points themselves, and I’m delighted with the way we faced that challenge.”
The emotions at the end were in stark contrast to Saturday’s trip to Fulham, when Latics themselves were on the receiving end of a last-gasp winning goal.
“Anyone who’s watched all our games will know we’ve just conceded goals from individual mistakes,” added Joyce.
“All the lads are human beings, they fatigue in games, and that’s when mistakes do get made.
“At Fulham on Saturday, we were still driving the game, and young Callum (Connolly) - who was trying to set up the winner - will learn from the experience.
“That’s the enthusiasm of youth. An older player might have been content to see out the game for 2-2.
“But that’s all part of his, and our, learning experience.”