Scott Wootton scored a 95th minute winner as Wigan Athletic defeated Bristol Rovers 2-1 to keep their League One survival hopes alive.
In extremely difficult windy conditions both teams struggled for any cohesion but Latics went ahead on 51 minutes. Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross from the left was flicked on by Will Keane at the near post and Callum Lang headed home inside the six-yard box.
With the wind at their backs the Gas pushed forward for the equaliser and were rewarded on 69 minutes when Luke McCormick turned away from Wootton and Curtis Tilt inside the box before placing his shot into the bottom right corner.
The hosts now pressed forward for the goal which might pull them away from the relegation zone but Latics held out and in the last minute of added time Thelo Aaasgaard’s floated free kick found Wootton at the near post and the centre-half finished into the bottom left corner of the net.
Latics move up a place to 22nd while Rovers drop to 21st with both teams one point from safety.
Leam Richardson’s injury problems continued prior to the game with Chris Merrie and Jamie Proctor both unavailable, Joe Dodoo and Will Kane were their replacements in the starting eleven.
Bristol Rovers new managerial appointment Joey Barton took charge for the first time at the Memorial Ground.
The hosts made a brisk opening and had an early chance when Brandon Hanlan headed wide of the target and Jamie Jones tipped over another header from Alex Rodman following a corner soon afterwards.
Keane pulled his shot wide of the target at the other end but it was becoming clear that the wild wind would have a significant impact on the game. The swirling and unpredictable wind was making it difficult to judge passes, headers and set pieces. Some passes were overhit and others held up deceptively at the last moment.
McCormick fired over the crossbar from 20 yards on 38 minutes and Luke Robinson was denied by an excellent Rodman tackle before the interval.
Latics were against the wind in the second half and Rovers won an early free kick in a central position 25-yards out but Luke Leahy’s strike crashed against the Latics wall and the ball was cleared.
Some neat play down the left hand side put Latics in front on 51 minutes, full back Robinson combined well with Solomon-Otabor who crossed and Keane flicked the ball on at the near post before Lang headed his fifth goal of the season from close range.
This prompted the Gas to push forward with increased urgency. Latics survived a scare when Tilt failed to cut out a cross from the right on 68 minutes but fortunately no Rovers player could capitalise.
But a minute later as Wootton and Tilt both retreated, McCormick was allowed to turn in the box before placing his shot past Jones and into the bottom right corner.
The Gas were in the ascendancy now with the wind at their backs and Latics retreating further into defence.
George Johnston and Gavin Massey replaced Keane and Solomon-Otabor on 80 minutes as Latics changed formation to a back three of Johnston, Wootton and Tilt.
Sam Nicholson had a chance to put the Gas ahead on 85 minutes with a shot from inside the box but only found the side netting.
Substitute Jonah Ayunga volleyed over a difficult opportunity in the 90th minute and a minute later his low drive from the left hand side of the box was well saved by Jones low down at his near post.
In Latics’ final attack in the 95th minute they secured the vital winner. Aasgaard’s floated free kick from the left found Wootton at the near post and the Plymouth loanee finished superbly into the bottom left corner, much to the pleasure of Latics’ players and coaching staff who celebrated wildly.
Latics never say die attitude enabled them to achieve an important victory in their battle for League One survival. They had ridden their luck a little but they haven’t had much luck recently so they probably deserved some.