Wigan Athletic 0 Brighton 1
Wigan Athletic crashed to another damaging defeat by the only goal against Brighton after shading a tight encounter over 90 minutes.
Latics enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball in good areas, only to once again fail to make it count on the scoreboard.
And they surrendered their four-game unbeaten record when Brighton substitute Dale Stephens - a Bolton lad, and scorer of a goal on his last visit to the DW two seasons ago - curled home a brilliant goal midway through the second half.
Latics had come close in the first half when Nick Powell - who limped off on the half-hour mark - saw a bullet header from close range superbly saved by David Stockdale.
And as Dan Burn was putting the rebound over the line from close range, the flag was going up on the far side for a borderline offside.
Michael Jacobs, who was excellent throughout, thought he’d found a way through in stoppage-time, only for Wigan old boy Gaetan Bong to get across and clear in the nick of time.
But in truth, Latics simply didn’t show enough creativity in the final third, which let down an otherwise fine display against top opposition, which resulted in booing both at the final whistle and for the manager’s decision to withdraw star striker Will Grigg after the Brighton goal.
Defending a four-match unbeaten run, Latics were quickly into their strike and created the first chance of the game when a nice bit of chest control from Powell opened the door for Jacobs, whose shot was dragged well wide of the mark.
The visitors seemed content to sit back and play on the break, and they almost took the lead on nine minutes with their first sight of goal.
A corner from Anthony Knockaert was flapped at by goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, and Glenn Murray somehow headed high and wide from bang in front.
Despite their perilous league position, Latics seized control of the game and were enjoying most of the ball in very good areas.
A superb cross from the right wing from Jacobs was only just in front of Powell, before Grigg did fantastic to chase a deep cross and flick the ball back over Stockdale and into the danger zone.
The ball found its way to Jacobs who teed up Max Power, whose shot deflected wide for a corner.
From the resultant set-piece, Stockdale pulled off a couple of brilliant saves at point-blank range to deny Powell and Burn, with the flag going up for offside as the ball looked as though it had just about crept over the line.
Latics suffered a blow just after the half-hour mark when Powell limped off to be replaced by Nathan Byrne, but still they retained the ascendancy and, from a Brighton corner, they broke with purpose.
Grigg and Byrne temporarily held a two-on-one advantage in the visitors’ half, but the returning Bong did well to come away with the ball.
A clever short corner from Jacobs was intelligently dummied by Power into the path of Byrne, whose goalbound shot was well blocked.
The visitors threatened as half-time approached, when Sam Baldock found himself one-on-one with Bogdan.
Fortunately for Latics, the goalkeeper stood his ground and pulled off a fine save, with skipper Stephen Warnock mopping up at the expense of a corner.
Latics ended the half on a high with a curling effort from Byrne taking an unfortunate deflection off Jacobs on its way behind for a goal-kick.
The home side had arguably enjoyed their best opening 45 since the opening home game of the campaign against Blackburn back in mid-August.
And they picked up where they left off at the start to the second half, with Reece Burke - back after a six-game absence following hernia surgery - and Byrne firing wide from the edge of the area.
Brighton, knowing they could climb to second with a win, were struggling to show the form that had made them one of the favourites to finish in the promotion places.
But they always remained a threat, and almost took the lead shortly after the hour mark from another corner.
Bogdan was again unconvincing as he failed to collect, and Latics received another let-off as centre-back Goldson somehow headed wide from four yards.
Latics had Adam Le Fondre stripped and ready to come on as the visitors embarked on their next attack, and this time they made it count as Stephens curled a magnificent 25-yard strike past Bogdan and into the top corner.
The substitution went ahead as planned, and surprisingly it was Wigan’s top scorer Grigg who made way for Le Fondre, who was soon joined by Craig Davies as Latics switched to a 4-4-2 for the last 15 minutes.
But the change had only a detrimental effect on the home side, who seemed to have the wind knocked out of their sails, with Brighton able to comfortably play out the remainder without much alarm.
Le Fondre half-heartedly claimed a penalty towards the end, only to be cautioned for simulation by the official.
And Jacobs’ efforts to wriggle free in stoppage-time were thwarted by Bong, whose last victory at the DW had been Wigan’s 2-1 triumph over Brighton in April 2015.