Wigan 1 Bolton 0
Emile Heskey scored his first goal for seven months to give Wigan a crucial win in their relegation showdown with Bolton that was overshadowed by a poor refereeing performance from Steve Tanner.
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The Latics are now six points off the drop zone, despite playing with 10 men for 86 minutes following an early controversial red card for midfielder Jason Koumas.
Heskey's 34th-minute winner ended a 20-match goal drought, before Bolton were denied an equaliser midway through the second half as Tanner failed to spot Michael Brown's deliberate handball on the line.
Coming into the game there was plenty riding on the encounter for both sides given the perilous relegation picture, with Bolton boss Gary Megson making an unsurprising nine changes to his side in the wake of Thursday's UEFA Cup defeat at Sporting Lisbon.
What it did not need was the intervention of a referee who turned the game into a fractious affair, with Tanner taking centre stage after just four minutes with his straight red card to Koumas.
It is fair to say the Welshman just caught Cahill as the pair challenged for a 50-50 ball, yet he clearly led with only his right boot that was no more than a few inches off the ground.
Tanner, though, wasted no time in brandishing his first red card this season - sparking howls of protest around the ground and on the pitch.
By the interval, the 10 men of Wigan had taken a deserved lead, with Heskey back on the scoresheet for the first time since the third match of the season on August 18.
Prior to that, he had planted an eight-yard header narrowly wide in meeting a right-wing cross from Antonio Valencia, whilst Wilson Palacios flashed a 20-yard drive inches past the right-hand post.
Then came what proved to be the winning goal, sparked by a clearing header off the line by Ivan Campo to a towering far-post header from Paul Scharner after he had rose to meet a Palacios corner.
From the ensuing throw, captain Mario Melchiot looped a hanging ball into the heart of the area where Heskey stole in front of Gretar Steinsson to hook the ball home on the volley from eight yards.
That inevitably roused Bolton from their slumber, and after Diouf saw a close-range effort ruled out for handball in controlling a Kevin Davies' cross, he was then fortunate to avoid a dismissal of his own.
The Senegal striker had earlier been booked - his 15th yellow card of the season and 12th in domestic football - for another handball deep in his own half.
When he went to ground all too easily outside the Wigan area after brushing past Scharner, Tanner opted not to issue a second caution - and subsequent red - for what was clear simulation.
It came as no surprise when Diouf did not appear for the second half, with Megson possibly fearful he would eventually be dismissed.
Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland made his first save just before the break in latching onto a diving header from Grzegorz Rasiak, who had replaced the injured Tamir Cohen moments earlier.
Kirkland was far busier after the break as Bolton finally made good use of their numerical advantage, initially blocking at point-blank range a 47th-minute effort from Nolan.
Kirkland then held everything Bolton pumped into the area, although he was saved by Emmerson Boyce at one stage as he blocked a inadvertent goalbound kneed clearance from Scharner.
But in the 67th minute came the second highly-contentious decision from Tanner as Brown appeared to use his left arm to block a far-post downward header from Kevin Davies, following a Matt Taylor corner.
Despite furious protests from the Bolton players, with Nolan running halfway down the pitch to confront Tanner as Wigan broke upfield, the Whites were denied a penalty.
If Tanner had witnessed the incident, it would have led to a red card for Brown and seen the Latics reduced to nine men, but they managed to escape.
Wigan were then rarely troubled in the closing stages until injury-time - when Erik Edman cleared a Nolan header off the line after he had seized upon a Heskey backflick to a long throw from Campo.
Wigan Kirkland, Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Edman, Valencia,Palacios (Taylor 90), Brown, Koumas, Heskey, King (Kilbane 58).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Sibierski, Bramble.
Sent Off: Koumas (5).
Booked: Palacios, Taylor.
Goals: Heskey 34.
Bolton Al Habsi, Steinsson, Andrew O'Brien,Cahill (McCann 69), Gardner, Nolan, Campo, Cohen (Rasiak 42),Diouf (Joey O'Brien 46), Davies, Taylor.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Meite.
Booked: Diouf, Gardner, McCann.
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).