JORDAN Flores marked his full league debut in fairytale fashion with an important goal as Wigan Athletic got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Fleetwood.
In the absence of injured trio Haris Vuckic, Craig Davies and Will Grigg, Flores was given his big chance by boss Gary Caldwell on the left of midfield.
And the 19-year-old from Aspull repaid his manager’s faith by breaking the deadlock six minutes before half-time with a vicious volley from 10 yards.
Latics edged two goals ahead within a minute of the restart when Michael Jacobs took Reece James’ pass in his stride before slotting home past Town goalkeeper Chris Maxwell with aplomb.
And although Tyler Hornby-Forbes pulled a scrappy goal back for Town on the hour mark, Latics were able to hang on for all three points that takes them up to seventh in the League One table.
Substitute Sanmi Odelusi could have sealed the win a few minutes earlier than the full-time whistle, only to miss an absolute sitter from 12 yards, his shot only narrowly missing the corner flag.
And Latics were nearly punished for their profligacy right at the death when Town substitute David Ball - who had spent time this summer on trial with Latics before returning to Fleetwood - struck the outside of a post from six yards.
The relief at the final whistle was tangible, but the three points were no more than Latics deserved for a commanding performance for the most part.
Latics certainly made the most of a huge let-off with only seven minutes gone, when the visitors appeared to be denied a stonewall penalty by referee Fred Graham.
Striker Bobby Grant seemed to be felled illegally inside the penalty area by Donervon Daniels, but the official waved play on to the anger of all in red and white.
Wigan’s first sight at goal fell to Max Power, after a corner had been played back to him, although his tame effort was directed straight at Maxwell in the Town goal.
Flores then found Jordy Hiwula breaking through the left channel but, with the goalkeeper off his line, the Latics striker couldn’t keep his feet and the chance had gone.
A clever corner from Flores was volleyed over by Jason Pearce, before Latics were denied a concrete penalty shout of their own midway through the half.
Jonjoe Kenny’s cross was headed back by Jacobs towards Hiwula, whose attempts to get a shot away were foiled by a clear handball by Eggert Jonsson.
However, again the official elected to wave play on.
Hiwula was frustrated again moments later when he could only come up with an air -shot after great interplay from Jacobs and James down the left.
The lone frontman then volleyed Jacobs’ cross over from a great position, before Latics were given a warning at the other end.
Grant was allowed time and space on the edge of the area, and curled a shot only just wide of Rich O’Donnell’s right-hand post.
But normal service was quickly resumed and Latics took a deserved lead six minutes before the break, after Jimmy Ryan had needlessly surrendered the ball inside his own half.
Hiwula found Jacobs, whose cross wasn’t cleared by the defence with the ball falling to Flores.
The Academy graduate - and a Latics season-ticket holder - settled himself before smashing past Maxwell into the back of the net, before celebrating with family and friends in the East Stand.
The goal sent Latics into the break with a spring in the step.
And within a minute of the restart, they’d doubled their advantage.
James found Jacobs inside the area, and the ex-Wolves man’s cool finish saw Latics put daylight between themselves and Fleetwood.
The visitors made a double change to try to stem the bleeding, but only a timely touch from Maxwell prevented Hiwula having a tap-in that would surely have made the game safe.
The precarious nature of a two-goal lead was underlined just after the hour mark, however, when Antoni Sarcevic’s free-kick deflected off the wall into the path of Hornby-Forbes, who couldn’t miss from the edge of the six-yard box with O’Donnell left helpless.
It was the first goal Latics had conceded on home soil in the league this season, and ensured a nervy last half hour where the visitors - inspired by Ball off the bench - probed for another opening.
Jacobs had a big chance to seal it only to head straight at Maxwell, and there were gasps of disbelief in the stadium when Odelusi raced clean through only for his sliced shot to almost hit the corner flag.
Hiwula saw another left-footed shot blocked by a desperate defender, and Latics were almost hit by the classic sucker punch inside the six added minutes.
The ball somehow found its way to the unmarked Ball, six yards out, but his shot struck the outside of the post and away for a goal-kick.