WIGAN Athletic got their stop-start season back on track against the Railwaymen of Crewe, with Michael Jacobs’ solitary goal proving just the ticket.
But the struggling visitors were increasingly encouraged to get ideas above their station, and made the final quarter of the contest anything but comfortable for the hosts.
Latics were given the perfect platform thanks to Jacobs’ first goal for the club - a clinical header from Max Power’s pinpoint corner - with only 12 minutes gone.
Will Grigg hit a post early in the second half, which would have avoided a tense conclusion which saw Crewe go all-out in search of a leveller.
Bradden Inman had earlier seen a first-half shot strike Rich O’Donnell’s right-hand post, while substitute Laui Dalla Valle saw a flick header fly just wide at the three-quarter mark.
Latics will point to a couple of big chances for star man Jacobs, who showed magical footwork to glide through the heart of the defence only to see goalkeeper Ben Garratt make a good block.
When his next effort did beat Garratt, Crewe centre-back George Ray was on hand to clear off the line.
But Latics successfully held on to extend their unbeaten record at the DW Stadium to two wins and a draw from three matches, without a single goal having been conceded.
In doing so they remain three points off sixth-placed Chesterfield, whom they travel to next weekend.
Wigan’s winning goal was so simple, and yet so devastatingly effective.
Power’s delivery was right out of the top drawer, and Jacobs was on hand to direct a free header past the helpless Garratt.
Buoyed by their early breakthrough, Latics were almost in again moments later when Grigg’s outstretched boot was narrowly unable to control a long ball from the back.
However, after gaining a foothold in the game, Crewe showed they too meant business and almost levelled with their first real attack.
Inman couldn’t have done any more to become the first visiting player to score at the DW in the league this term with a superb low shot from distance.
With O’Donnell struggling to get there, the ball kissed the inside of the right-hand post, before spinning back across goal and away to safety.
Latics quickly recovered from the let-off, with the lively Jacobs once again their go-to man.
The ex-Wolves forward skipped past two would-be defenders, before seeing his shot smothered by the onrushing goalkeeper.
Garratt was again called into action to save Jonjoe Kenny’s rasping drive, with Davies then sending a speculative overhead kick well over the top.
Jacobs was again denied by Garratt’s timely half-parry, with the goalkeeper perhaps earning the luck of turning to see team-mate Ray racing back to nod the ball behind for a corner.
There was still time before the break for Crewe to threaten again, Stephen Kingsley’s shot forcing a great save from the acrobatic O’Donnell.
Latics, though, still looked the likelier next goalscorers, and number two very nearly arrived right at the start of the second period.
After Grigg showed great awareness to sell his marker a sublime dummy to release Jacobs, whose shot was blocked, Wigan’s £1million centre-forward came agonisingly close to notching his first goal from open play.
Davies provided the opportunity with a neat cross from the left wing, and Grigg stole a yard on his marker only to see his bullet header beat Garratt only to come back off the post.
Credit Crewe, though, for continuing to play their football, which Latics found harder to contain as the minutes ticked by.
After Power was dispossessed far too easily on the edge of the area, Inman’s shot was deflected wide for a corner despite O’Donnell’s best efforts to keep it in.
A slide-rule pass then almost played in Crewe’s danger-man, with only a tremendous block by Donervon Daniels saving the day for Latics.
There was flashpoint just after the hour mark when Davies raced through and appeared to be impeded by Ray, who had already been cautioned in the first half.
Fortunately for the defender, Davies was able to retain his footing and play went on, although the chance came to nothing - and the Crewe man escaped further action.
Crewe substitute Dalla Valle almost announced his arrival in dramatic style, sending his first touch - a neat flick header - just wide of the far post.
Gary Caldwell’s concern was shown as he sent on all three replacements - Sean Murray, Jordan Flores and new-boy Jordy Hiwula - in the last 20 minutes, which helped to ensure Latics held on for a big three points.