Wigan Athletic’s worst performance of the season saw them crash 3-1 at Southend to surrender their 16-game unbeaten run - but they remain top of League One with automatic promotion rivals Shrewsbury and Blackburn also failing to win.
Right from the off, Latics were uncharacteristically below-par at Roots Hall, and they fell behind inside three minutes when an unmarked Michael Turner nodded home from close range after a corner had been flicked on.
Latics fans should have known it wasn’t going to be their day when ex-Wigan striker Marc-Antoine Fortune made it 2-0 with the kind of cool finish he failed to show during his two seasons at the DW Stadium.
Paul Cook went all in on the hour mark to try to turn things around, with James Vaughan and Gary Roberts coming on for Gavin Massey and Michael Jacobs, which saw the visitors switch to a 4-4-2 formation.
And Vaughan pulled one back midway through the second period with a deadly finish from close range after good work from Nick Powell and Nathan Byrne.
However, any hopes of an unlikely comeback were nipped in the bud when Michael Kightly made it 3-1 seven minutes from time, after Christian Walton had parried the initial shot from Simon Cox.
And the misery was compounded during the seven minutes of stoppage-time, when Vaughan looked a certain scorer from a Byrne cross, only to be completely mugged as he tried to nod the ball home.
Referee Andy Woolmer not only waved play on, though, but he also booked Vaughan for his protestations.
At least results elsewhere didn’t make things worse, with Shrewsbury losing at home to Plymouth, and struggling Oldham securing a point at Blackburn despite being reduced to 10 men.
All of which means Latics remain two points clear at the top over Shrewsbury, who have played a game more, and three points ahead of third-placed Blackburn, who have played two games more.
Boss Cook admitted after the game he had no idea where the below-par performance had come from after weeks of consistency.
But right from the off the visitors were almost unrecognisable from the form that’s taken them to the top of the table.
Behind inside three minutes, when Turner managed to get away from Dan Burn and neat Walton from inside the six-yard box, Latics were unable to muster much in the way of a response.
Powell lashed well wide after good work down the left from Jacobs, before the former Manchester United man was absolutely clattered in centre-field by Anton Ferdinand for a yellow card that may even have been red on another day.
If that was a statement of intent that Southend weren’t going to sit back and let Latics play, it appeared to work, and indeed it was the home side who went two up just before the interval.
Southend were allowed far too much time and space to work the ball into Fortune, who rolled Burn with ease before stroking the ball under the advancing Walton - before celebrating right in front of the away end.
It almost went from bad to worse before the referee blew for half-time, with Cox steering a shot from the edge of the area well over the bar, when he had to at least hit the target.
The Shrimpers and their fans were really enjoying themselves despite the miserable conditions, with Michael Timlin twice trying his luck from 35 yards, although neither effort troubled Walton.
Unfortunately the second period was merely a continuation of the first, with Fortune’s cross from the right requiring Burn to head over his own bar for a corner, which the big centre-back then had to hack away off the line.
That was the signal for boss Cook to go all in, withdrawing Jacobs and Massey and sending on Vaughan and Roberts, and a switch in formation to 4-4-2.
There was almost an immediate reaction, with Vaughan getting his head to a Max Power corner, and the ball flying only just over.
Vaughan did find the net moments later from Byrne’s brilliant cross, and Latics had 25 minutes to complete their escape out of jail.
Another Power corner saw Burn head wastefully wide but, the more Latics pushed for an equaliser, the more Southend looked dangerous on the counter.
A mad scramble in the Southend box saw Grigg stab the ball just wide, but Latics were put out of their misery seven minutes from time with a third Southend goal.
Walton could only parry away Cox’s shot into the path of Kightly, who steered the ball home into the corner of the net to secure the points.
The home side even came close to a fourth side as the 90-minute mark approached, with substitute Shayon Harrison heading just wide.
But there was still time for Latics to be denied an absolute stonewall penalty, when Vaughan was completely taken out in mid-air by Jason Demetriou as he tried to nod Byrne’s cross home from eight yards, which was somehow missed by the officials.