A wonder-goal from Jack Grealish two minutes from time gave a game that was desperately devoid of any quality the finish it really didn’t deserve as Wigan Athletic were pipped 1-0 at Aston Villa.
Latics defended resolutely and looked to have done enough to hang on for a 0-0 draw that would have extended their unbeaten away sequence to six matches.
But Grealish was on hand to curl a brilliant strike into the top corner from 25 yards to secure three points for Steve Bruce’s Villa.
The home side had come flying out of the traps and Latics had to hang on during a relatively frantic opening quarter of an hour - certainly compared to the rest of proceedings.
Jordan Amavi volleyed just over the bar in the opening skirmishes, with the same player forcing a decent save from Jussi Jaaskelainen moments later.
Villa wasted a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead on 15 minutes when Albert Adomah played Jonathan Kodjia clean through.
But the £15million man was far too casual with his finish, and a falling Jaaskelainen was able to make a save he had no right to make.
And that was very nearly it in terms of entertainment, with Villa banging their heads against a brick wall, and Latics largely failing to make the most of their attempts at a counter.
But just when it looked as though the game would end all square, Grealish stepped up to beat Jaaskelainen with a goal worthy of winning any game.
That was the signal for Will Grigg to emerge off the bench, as the clock ticked on to 89 minutes, with Dan Burn bizarrely also sent on to assume striking duties ahead of Adam Le Fondre and Craig Davies - sadly to no avail.
The result leaves Latics second-bottom of the Championship, ahead of Wednesday’s visit of high-flying Newcastle.
As far as positives go, Latics will feel that, for the best part of 75 minutes, they successfully managed to keep another big-spending outfit with huge expectations at arm’s length.
After Amavi’s early efforts, Luke Garbutt - playing in midfield to accommodate the return of Reece Burke after a hip problem - had a couple of minutes to forget, being booked for a soft foul and then giving the ball away on the edge of the area.
His colleagues got him out of jail on that occasion, but there was no-one to stop Kodjia racing on to a nice ball through from Adomah shortly later.
Thankfully for Latics, the ex-Bristol City striker wasted a gilt-edged opportunity by trying to be too clever with his finish.
As the game petered out towards half-time, the increasing boredom was eased slightly when Grigg began warming up in front of the Villa fans, who welcomed him with a tweaked ‘blue’ version of the famous ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’ chant.
Fortunately the boyhood Birmingham fan saw the funny side, rather than take offence, and even supplied a wave when it was requested.
The first half ended with efforts from Burke and Michael Jacobs that flew harmlessly over the Villa bar, and that was Burke’s last involvement as he failed to reappear for the second period.
Jordi Gomez took over from the on-loan West Ham man, with Garbutt returning to the unfamiliar position of right-back, and the Spaniard was quickly into the game only to fire wide from 25 yards.
The period up until the hour mark was pretty decent from a Latics point of view, in terms of possession and territory, although they didn’t manage to fashion a shooting opportunity of note.
Jacobs found the ball at his feet in the Villa box, and toed the ball away from a sliding challenge, looking to get his shot in when other players may have taken the contact and gone to ground.
At the other end, Villa fans were screaming for a penalty themselves at the three-quarter mark when Jake Buxton was all over Kodjia both inside and outside the box, only for the official to wave play on.
A mistake from Yanic Wildschut, who was caught ball-watching, allowed Mile Jedinak the chance to volley straight at Jaaskelainen.
The goalkeeper was then able to watch a Grealish effort catch Ross McCormack on the way through for a goal-kick as time ticked by.
But with two minutes remaining on the clock, the game finally got the crowning moment it didn’t warrant when Grealish fired into the top corner from distance, with Jaaskelainen left utterly helpless.
Grigg and Burn became the unlikely Latics front two for the five added minutes, but Villa were comfortably able to negotiate the remainder to secure three precious points.