WANDERERS blew a golden chance to climb into the automatic promotion spots as they fell to another damaging defeat at Wigan Athletic.

Stephen Humphrys did the damage – putting the Latics ahead in a game where they had done little but defend stoutly to that stage.

Derby County’s defeat at home to Charlton Athletic had left the door ajar to climb above them into second spot but the despite dominating the game in every statistic you could mention, they failed with the only one that counted.

Tempers flared after the final whistle with all 22 players and coaching staff clashing in front of the away stand – but the damage had already been done.

Wanderers made three changes to the side beaten at Blackpool. Ricardo Santos had his red card rescinded by the Football Association, so kept his place at the heart of the defence.

Paris Maghoma came in for Kyle Dempsey in the middle of midfield, Nat Ogbeta replaced Zac Ashworth on the left wing and Vic Adeboyejo started up front in place of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.

Kick off delayed by half an hour to allow travelling fans to get into the ground safely and cut through the gridlocked traffic around Robin Park, a tense encounter became something else altogether by the time the players finally took the pitch at 8.15pm.

Just as they had at Blackpool on Saturday, Wanderers made a fast start. Josh Sheehan dominated early possession and had the first shot at goal from distance, driving the ball high into the sparsely populated stand behind Sam Tickle’s goal.

The next chance fell to Paris Maghoma, running on to a fine ball over the top from Gethin Jones. He tried to squeeze a shot between Tickle and his near post but was denied by an excellent covering challenge from Luke Chambers.

It had been a strong opening 20 minutes for the Whites, decked out in black, but the confident mood was dented somewhat when Carlos Mendes Gomes seemed to catch his boot in the turf as he reached for the ball, immediately going to ground. Moments later the injury proved sufficiently serious to mean the Guinea Bissau international was carried off on a stretcher.

As his player was being carried from the pitch, Evatt turned his eyes to the heavens and puffed out his cheeks. Mendes Gomes has only just got into his groove after a stop-start season and now his involvement in the remainder of the campaign was looking in some doubt.

Wigan have generally had some of the highest possession stats in League One this season but with 25 minutes gone they had seen just 11 per cent of the ball. That did improve before the half was through, and a driving run from Baba Adeeko led to a Callum McManaman cross being cleared at full stretch by Santos in what was the first real sight of the Latics as an attacking force.

Evatt had discussed Collins before the game, insisting he did not want to pile “unnecessary pressure” on his January signing who had yet to get up to full speed since his move from Bristol Rovers. He showed a glimpse of what he can offer on the half hour, whipping in a great cross from the right which forced a timely clearance from Charlie Goode.

Joel Coleman took a couple of confidence-boosting catches on the rare occasions that Wigan got the ball wide, as seemed their best bet of opening Bolton up.

Older fans might debate whether Wigan v Bolton is a real derby – but there were plenty of folk in the away end who were treating it as such. Eoin Toal went close to scoring a goal for the ages with a 30-yard drive which forced a fingertip save from Tickle and as the half drew to a close, Wanderers could be pleased with one of their better first halves in recent memory.

Would they be able to find a cutting edge in the second half, however? The major worry was potentially Maghoma, who picked up a yellow card early on and committed a couple of fouls either side of the interval that caught ref John Busby’s attention.

Wanderers pushed hard for the breakthrough at the start of the second half and Tickle was needed to make another smart stop on 55 minutes after Adeboyejo and Maghoma fed Ogbeta just inside the box – the wing-back opting to smash a shot towards the near post rather than roll a cross into the six-yard box.

From the corner, Josh Sheehan won a free kick on the edge of the box and then brought another scrambling save out of the Wigan keeper, who was more than earning his match fee by that point.

The away end roared their approval as Bolton continued to turn the screw. Adeboyejo got in behind with a clever run but could not gather the ball played into him by Sheehan.

Wigan briefly offered a riposte – Santos blocking a shot from sub Stephen Humphrys – but a Wigan goal looked a million miles away. And then it happened.

Sub Martial Godo made ground down the right, play switching to Chambers who played in Humphrys at full stretch, poking the ball past the onrushing Coleman to send the home fans into unexpected ecstasy.

Wigan’s first shot on target had hit the back of the net. And one very nearly turned into two – Coleman pushing away Thelo Aasgaard’s snap volley, then Godo pulling another shot just wide.

Bolton were inexplicably on their haunches. Evatt threw on Kyle Dempsey and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson for Adeboyejo and Maghoma hoping to turn the tide back.

Sheehan went close with another free kick with 13 minutes left with what proved his last act, the Welshman brought off for striker Cameron Jerome to murmurs of disquiet from the away end.

With the minutes ticking down Santos wasted a glorious headed chance from Ogbeta’s corner, and another cross in stoppage time nearly fell for Collins.

“It’s happening again” chanted the Wigan fans. And it was. The Latics jinx had struck again for Evatt and it remains to be seen what two straight defeats do to Wanderers’ promotion chances in the long run.

After the final whistle it threatened to kick-off all over again when both sets of players and backroom staff clashed in front of the away end – Wigan’s Martial Godo led away from the melee back down the tunnel after appearing to antagonise Bolton with his celebrations.