UTTERLY unexpected but thoroughly deserved, this victory suggests rumours of Wanderers’ demise might just have been a tad premature.

Callum Connolly grabbed the winning goal as Phil Parkinson’s side shrugged off the disappointment of recent weeks to put in a performance of real character.

With just one victory in their last 21 attempts, even the eternal optimists travelled down the M6 expecting to witness another link in the relegation chain. Yet with a team re-shaped by injury and availability we got exactly the kind of gutsy display we have been craving.

None of it would have been possible without Remi Matthews’ heroics in goal – his injury-time save from Che Adams deserving special mention.

ELO’s Mr Blue Sky seemed strangely appropriate for Wanderers prior to kick-off as news filtered through about a potential new bidder at the table in the takeover race.

Rumours of mysterious Turkish investment were enough to perk up a few faces in the press box and might even have made it down into the dressing room, judging by a much more encouraging tempo to Bolton’s early play.

Andy Taylor’s injury and Jonathan Grounds’ unavailability had forced Parkinson’s hand to play a 3-5-2 formation, Mark Beevers coming back into the side for the first time in three games and Craig Noone used on the left as a wing-back.

A high-scoring affair was never on the cards, being that no more than a single goal had been scored in each of the last six games between the two sides.

And so a fragmented first half panned out. Wanderers had plenty of hussle, not least down the flanks with Noone and Pawel Olkowski heavily involved. Their final ball may have lacked quality on occasion but at no stage in the early proceedings did they look overwhelmed.

After beating QPR 4-3 at the weekend, this was quite a different Birmingham side, too. Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams looked a lively front pairing but Bolton’s back three coped admirably.

They could have done little had Maikel Kieftenbeld’s rasping effort hit the target rather than whistling inches over the crossbar. In general, though, Wanderers gave as good as they got – and those who had clamoured to see Parkinson use a front two were given ample ammunition for their argument.

By far Wanderers’ best chance of the half fell to Noone, who forced Lee Camp into action with his first snap-shot, feeding off Donaldson’s lay-off, and then whistled another effort narrowly wide of the post.

Shortly afterwards, the Blues missed a decent opportunity of their own as Gary Gardner’s cross from the right dropped for Jutkiewicz at the far post but, at full stretch, he could only bounce a shot on to the roof of the net.

Nearly nine years ago more than 4,000 Wanderers fans packed into the Gil Merrick Stand and watched Chung-Yong Lee head a last-minute winner to send the club to Wembley.

The assembled support was noticeably smaller this time around – but they still managed to make themselves heard over the grumbling home fans, and nearly had a goal to celebrate shortly after the restart.

Luke Murphy replaced Gary O’Neil at the break. And it was his corner that sparked panic in the Birmingham box as first Magennis and then Noone poked shots towards goal.

Concern was spreading around the stadium as the game reached the hour mark, Birmingham struggling to make any inroads at all on the Bolton goal. That changed when Gardner and Adams combined on the edge of the area to feed Jota, the Spaniard smashing a shot which was tipped on to the post by Matthews.

Wanderers’ scrappiness continued. Parkinson brought Josh Vela on for Marc Wilson and moved Jason Lowe into the back three and quite quickly they had a goal for their considerable efforts.

Murphy’s delivery from the right was superb but rising highest in the middle of a packed six-yard box was Connolly, whose only previous goal this season came in the colours of Wigan Athletic down the road at Aston Villa.

The celebrations behind the goal were not quite a vociferous as they had been in 2010, in fact there was an audible air of shock among those who had travelled more in duty than expectation from the North West.

But within moments they were singing “1-0 to the Wanderers” and revelling in the new-found feeling of being in the lead.

From then, Parkinson’s side expended every second they could. And as the second of five minutes of added time rolled on, Matthews produced another top-drawer save to preserve the points.

Adams, with 19 goals this season, was played in on the edge of the box but the Bolton keeper got down superbly to his left to push away his low shot.

“We are staying up,” shouted the Bolton fans. Well, not yet. But with a few more performances like this you just never know.