WANDERERS’ play-off fight was going right down to the wire – but Sam Allardyce had another Bolton lad to thank on a weekend where everything went his way.

Stockport County keeper Carlo Nash had performed heroics for the Hatters as they pulled off a shock 2-0 win at Steve Bruce’s Huddersfield Town, doing his boyhood club a big favour in the process.

Going into the weekend, Bolton looked like they needed a miracle. Seven points behind the sixth-placed Terriers but with a game in hand, they had to get the job done at Crewe and hope that the West Yorkshiremen slipped up.

They didn’t have things all their own way – and the game was finely balanced at half time after Mark Rivers had cancelled out Eidur Gudjohnsen’s 20th goal of the season, and Jussi Jaaskelainen was called upon to make some big saves to keep his side in the match.

Crewe felt hard done by with the penalty 20 minutes from time that gave the ever-ready and ever-reliable Dean Holdsworth the chance to fire Wanderers ahead for the second time in the game - decisively as it turned out. But Allan Johnston was clearly nudged by David Wright and, having given Shaun Smith the benefit of the doubt for his challenge on Claus Jensen in the first half, referee Terry Heilbron had no hesitation about pointing to the spot this time around.

The Bolton News:

Fittingly it was Jensen - the game's outstanding performer - who had the last laugh, rounding off a breath-taking move he'd started himself to send the bank of Bolton fans, who took up one entire side of the ground, into wild celebrations. They didn't know for sure that Huddersfield had lost but they'd had no update on 2-0 and that was good enough for them with just two minutes on the clock.

"We've kept the season alive with the recent run we've been on," Gudni Bergsson acknowledged as he looked back on seven wins and three draws in the last 11 games. "But until now the teams around us have been winning games as well and that has made it really hard for us to get back into the play-off positions.

"But it's been a very interesting and exciting season and, hopefully, it will go on until the last game.

The Bolton News:

"It helps if you're playing well and in form, which we have been. That means we have the confidence and that's a vital part of any team's game.

"We're in good shape going into these last two games so let's hope we can get those two wins.

"We've given ourselves a chance now but we still have to rely on other results. Hopefully they will go our way."

While Bolton congratulated themselves on a job well done, things were only just warming up in the home dressing room.

Dario Gradi was determined to highlight a second-half challenge from Holdsworth on Kenny Lunt which he felt should have earned the striker a straight red card.

“I thought he’d killed him!” raged the Crewe boss.

“I thought he was really hurt and that’s thuggery.

“I have no time for thuggery and I have no time for referees who allow thuggery to take place.”

The Bolton News:

Gradi’s comments were then put to Allardyce, who immediately leapt to his player’s defence.

“If Dario calls that thuggery then I must have been a complete animal,” he said with a smile. “There was very little in it from what I saw, he just used his bodyweight to hit him.

“Yes it might have been a foul but there is nothing in the rules of the game that says that physical contact is not allowed.”

Holdsworth was equally puzzled by Gardi’s attack.

“It was one of the best challenges I have made,” he said. “I was just bigger than him, that’s all.

“I think Dario Gradi is just trying to overshadow the fact his team has been beaten.”

Wanderers had home advantage in their remaining two games – and would go on to beat Wolves on the Wednesday night, then Norwich on the Sunday to clinch sixth spot ahead of Huddersfield, who were well beaten at Fulham.

Wanderers: Jaaskelainen; Bergsson, Fish, Ritchie (Phillips), Whitlow; Johnansen, Warhurst, Jensen, Johnston; Hansen (Holdsworth), Gudjohnsen (Farrelly).