WIGAN ATHLETIC’S miserable losing streak extended to six matches as Bolton took advantage of three defensive blunders to take the spoils in the Lancashire derby.
Antolin Alcaraz had given Roberto Martinez a massive pre-match boost by returning to action a month ahead of schedule following a thigh problem.
But the Paraguayan showed his ring-rustiness by giving away the ball for two of the Bolton goals, with Steve Gohouri handing the visitors their killer second on the stroke of half-time with the worst blunder of the lot.
Wigan’s inadequacies at the back ensured Momo Diame’s cracker five minutes before the break counted for nothing, while it could have been worse with Ali Al Habsi – again Wigan’s star performer – saving a late Kevin Davies penalty.
Martinez had made three changes for the game, David Jones joining Alcaraz and Gohouri in the starting line-up for the first time since his summer arrival.
The home fans were also boosted by the presence of star striker Hugo Rodallega on the bench after a month out with ankle ligament damage.
Rodallega had grabbed Wigan’s goal in the corresponding fixture last term, in a bad-tempered affair that saw James McCarthy sidelined for three months after a crude lunge by Fabrice Muamba.
And this one started in a similar vein, with Victor Moses unceremoniously dumped to the floor with barely 10 seconds on the clock.
Latics, though, had bigger things to worry about less than three minutes later, when the visitors took the lead with their first attack.
Wigan had already had an escape when Diame was caught in possession and McCarthy had to give away a free kick that was scrambled away.
They didn’t heed the warning, though, and paid the ultimate price when Alcaraz gave the ball away unnecessarily deep in his own half.
Bolton moved the ball swiftly down their right, and Chris Eagles’ cross was bundled in at the near post by Nigel Reo-Coker.
It was nearly 2-0 with only six minutes gone, when Eagles’ shot with the outside of boot forced a great save from Al Habsi diving to his right.
After taking time to grow into the game, Latics gained a foothold and created two decent chances within the space of two minutes.
First, a surging run by Moses saw McCarthy playing in Franco di Santo, but David Wheater was across fast for Wanderers and the danger had passed.
Then, a long ball from Gary Caldwell was laid off by Di Santo into the path of McCarthy, whose volley was disappointingly well wide of the target.
Caldwell was then on hand to produce a superb block to divert a goalbound effort from Eagles, before Bolton once again showed their danger in front of goal.
Davies was allowed to chest down a long ball from the left deep inside the penalty area, and it needed Al Habsi to deal with the left-foot shot with Alcaraz not getting there.
Latics came close to a leveller when a deep corner from Ben Watson was clawed away by Jussi Jaaskelainen at the far post, before parity was restored five minutes before the break.
Great persistence from Watson allowed Diame a sight of goal and, from 25 yards, the Frenchman found the top corner with a magnificent right-footed strike.
However, having taken so long to get back on level terms, Wigan handed the initiative straight back to Bolton at the next opportunity.
With the half-time whistle imminent, an awful mistake by Gohouri saw him robbed by Davies, who fed David Ngog.
The former Liverpool man bided his time before sliding a left-foot strike past Al Habsi, who got a solid hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
That was the Ivorian’s final contribution, Martinez putting him out of his misery after a disappointing 45 minutes, with Maynor Figueroa on at left-back for the second stanza.
There was also a half-time call for Rodallega, who replaced Watson in a reshuffle that saw McCarthy switched inside from an unfamiliar role out on the left-hand flank.
Wigan started the second period in a positive frame of mind, and Rodallega forced a good save from Jaaskelainen within seven minutes of the restart, after good work from Moses.
Di Santo then found himself free down the left, but the Argentine striker had more time than he perhaps realised and his rushed cross was cut out before it could reach Rodallega.
Latics continued to dominate without really managing to test Jaaskelainen, and the visitors twice squandered the chance extend their lead around the three-quarter mark.
An unmarked Dedryck Boyata somehow headed Martin Petrov’s inswinging free-kick wide from all of two yards, before the Wanderers were awarded a controversial penalty 18 minutes from time for a coming-together between Boyata and Caldwell.
The spot-kick from Davies wasn’t the best-struck, but Al Habsi pulled off a great save - and deserved the good fortune of seeing Boyata blaze the rebound miles over the crossbar.
Alcaraz made partial amends for his earlier error by keeping Wigan in with three minutes left, performing an inch-perfect sliding tackle that denied Ivan Klasnic, who was about to pull the trigger.
Given the open nature of the game, there was always the sense that Latics would create one more chance to steal a point - and it came in the very last minute.
Moses streaked through down right into a menacing position, but his cross flew agonisingly in front of Di Santo, with Boyata grateful to clear at the far post for a corner.
And the game was up in the second added minute when Alcaraz again gave ball away, allowing Eagles to cut in from the right-hand side, evading the clutches of Caldwell, before stabbing the ball past a completely exposed Al Habsi.
Latics: Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Gohouri; Moses, Jones, Watson, Diame, McCarthy; Di Santo. Subs: Pollitt, Figueroa (for Gohouri, 46), Crusat, McArthur, Maloney (for McCarthy, 76), Sammon, Rodallega (for Watson, 46).
Bolton: Jaaskelainen; Boyata, Wheater, Cahill, Robinson; Eagles, Reo-Coker, Pratley, Eagles; Davies, Ngog. Subs: Bogdan, Gardner (for Petrov, 88), Knight, Tuncay, Davies (for Eagles, 90), Kakuta, Klasnic (for Ngog, 85).