IF there is one lesson we have learned in the last few days at Wanderers, it is that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

A brilliant back three worked a treat at Bramall Lane on Saturday but last night it was a return for the Fab Four against Hull City.

Whatever your view on formation, the net result was indisputable – two vital victories which breathed fresh life into the Whites’ survival chase.

Gary Madine stole the show with his 21st-minute free kick, his seventh goal in the last 12 games and ninth in total this season.

The striker, who has won more aerial challenges than anyone else in Europe’s top leagues, showed he is not too bad with his feet, either.

But the quality of his set pieces has come as a surprise to Phil Parkinson.

“He came to us one day and said he wanted to take free kicks, I wish he’d let us know sooner,” he told The Bolton News. “Gaz has been out there practising, he can hit them all sorts of ways. I didn’t realise how good he actually was.

“His all-round performance, heading the ball out of the six-yard box at the end, was absolutely incredible. And to do two games in a few days at that level is testament to how he is keeping himself now.

“This is a player who is starting to fulfil his potential, and I emphasise ‘starting to’ because I think there is a lot more to come from him.

“You reap what you sow. He is trusting his body more now and working very hard – his mobility has gone on to a completely different level.”

The first half was a case of good news, bad news for Wanderers.

They fully deserved to take a 1-0 lead back down the tunnel, supplied by a sublime free-kick from Madine but fans could not help but fear what the loss of Karl Henry and Darren Pratley to injury could have for the longer term.

Questions had been asked of Parkinson’s attacking intent when he switched back to 4-2-3-1 to match up with the Tigers’ own shape, yet it was the visitors who seemed the ones happier to contain and hit on the break.

After successfully switching to a back three at Bramall Lane, it was a bold move from the Bolton boss to go back to his tried and trusted – yet early in the game you could see sense in his decision, and with Sammy Ameobi back in swaggering form, there was a threat each time the Whites bombed forward.

Madine’s goal came shortly after Henry had limped down the tunnel with a hamstring injury and summed up a player at the height of his powers right now.

Commandeering a 25-yard free kick from Ameobi, he curled a nonchalant effort into the top corner which left Allan McGregor clutching at thin air.

Pratley’s injury appears to be more severe, and the skipper left the Macron wearing a protective boot on the same ankle he broke last season. For both of Parkinson’s so-called enforcers to be removed from the equation left you fearful of what might be in store, but thankfully Josh Cullen and Filipe Morais hardly missed a beat from their enterprising performance at the weekend.

Cullen and Reece Burke – who retained his place ahead of David Wheater – were theoretically playing their last game before returning to West Ham, yet both have shown in the last two games why they do have a future at the Macron.

Hull make just one impression on the first half, when Markus Henriksen tested birthday boy Ben Alnwick’s handling with a free kick.

The Wanderers keeper was the silent hero of Saturday’s win at Bramall Lane and, again, delivered when it mattered most in the driving rain.

The Tigers looked a shadow of the side which had decimated Wanderers in August, their fragmented football nowhere near as pleasing on the eye. They still managed to create a number of chances in the second half, however, which will leave Nigel Adkins wondering how he did not get anything from the game.

Jarod Bowen turned Nouha Dicko’s low cross against the outside of the post, Mark Beevers made a superb block in front of his own goal to deny Henriksen and Jon Toral shaved the woodwork with a low effort through a tangle of legs late on.

Wanderers’ dogged defending deserved a result, however, and with Madine chipping in with some vital headers in his own penalty box, they held on for what could be the most satisfying home win of the campaign.

Yes, the result might have been made easier. Madine missed a close-range header in the final few minutes and Morais was denied by McGregor after getting his head to Josh Vela’s cross. But there was a sense of belief around the Macron late on which hasn’t always been there in the last few months, and long may it continue.

Wanderers climb up to 20th while Hull dropped into the bottom three. Parkinson – hoarse from his touchline cajoling – was a happy man at the final whistle.

“After getting that first away win against Sheffield, it was about whether we could string our first wins back-to-back and I think we were absolutely colossal,” he said.

“We had to throw players on early after losing two key players in Darren Pratley and Karl Henry but the replacements were absolutely outstanding.

“I keep saying about the spirit in this squad but anyone who watched that game can see what there is out there on the pitch.”