Wigan Athletic slipped another step closer to an immediate return to League One following a hugely-damaging 2-0 home defeat to Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa.
Latics failed to score for the 10th time in their last 13 outings at the DW Stadium, and had no answer when Villa upped the ante in the final quarter when they scored both their goals.
Wales international centre-back James Chester put Villa ahead with 17 minutes to go after goalkeeper Matt Gilks was unable to hold on to a Conor Hourihane cross.
And the points were safe when substitute Scott Hogan - a £15million January arrival from Brentford - headed home from close range with six minutes to go.
Latics did have good chances to go in front but, once again, were unable to take them.
The best arguably fell to Omar Bogle inside the opening quarter of an hour but, after reading a weak backpass from Mile Jedinak, the striker could only find the side-netting from a tight angle after half-rounding goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
Bogle also had a chance to level shortly after Villa’s opening goal, only this time Johnstone produced a superb save to divert it away for a corner.
Latics are now seven points adrift of safety with only eight games remaining, heading into the forthcoming international break.
And it could have been so, so different had Bogle made the most of the gilt-edged opportunity that came his way with both sides still feeling each other out.
The former Grimsby man tried to make amends with a shot from further out shortly after, but this time the effort was high and wide of the target.
Gabriel Obertan’s effort on goal just before the half-hour was of more concern for the Villa goalkeeper, although that also ended up missing the post - this time by inches.
Villa were struggling to muster much in the way of an attacking threat, with Jake Buxton - stand-in skipper for the day - blocking Jonathan Kodjia’s first sight of goal.
And the visitors were almost the architects of their own downfall again just before the break, when this time Hourihane’s backpass was woefully short, allowing Bogle again to take delivery.
This time he was brought down by Chester at the expense of a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Michael Jacobs’ effort was comfortably held by Johnstone.
There was still time for Villa to sound a warning on the stroke of half-time when Hourihane’s cross was headed just wide of the post by Chester.
But Latics regained the initiative soon after the restart and were pushing forward at every opportunity.
They received a blow eight minutes in when Andy Kellett - filling in at left-wing back for the injured Stephen Warnock - limped off with what is hopefully not a recurrence of the serious knee problem that’s sidelined him for most of the season.
He was replaced by Callum Connolly, who was quickly into the game in a more advanced role than usual.
Latics thought they were in just before the hour mark when Jacobs advanced on the last man before trying his luck from 20 yards, only for Johnstone to help it round the post.
That was the signal for Latics to make their second change, sending on Ryan Colclough for the tiring Obertan.
However, Villa more than matched that with the introduction of Hogan and Henri Lansbury, two big-money January recruits, to try to tip the balance their way.
Still Latics continued to press, with Connolly seeing a shot tipped round the post by Johnstone, before Villa’s new-boys began to work their magic.
Lansbury sent over a couple of dangerous corners, the first one headed just over by Chester and the second flying straight through the six-yard box.
But Latics stuck at it and, after Sam Morsy barged his way through to the edge of the area, Shaun MacDonald saw a fierce shot deflect wide off Jedinak.
From the resulting corner from Jacobs, Connolly’s header was hacked off the line by a desperate defender, as the home fans began to sense an opening goal was imminent.
However, when it did arrive, with 17 minutes to go, it was at the other end, with Chester in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a spill from Gilks.
Credit Latics for their response, and they were almost level within two minutes, only for Johnstone to miraculously tip away Bogle’s goalbound shot from 12 yards.
But the game was over as a contest on 84 minutes when Albert Adomah’s cross was headed home clinically by Hogan.
And the number of home fans who took that as their cue to leave the ground suggested it might not just be game over...but also season over.