Hat-trick hero Jordi Gomez spared goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi’s blushes with an injury-time winner to earn Wigan a 3-2 victory against Reading at the DW Stadium.
The Royals arrived in the north west fresh from their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season against Everton and took the lead in the 35th minute through Sean Morrison’s first top-flight goal.
But Gomez turned things around in the second half with a brace and that looked to be that until, 10 minutes from time, Al Habsi dropped a half-blocked shot from Hal Robson-Kanu on to the bar and the ball then hit him and went in.
It was a hammer blow for Roberto Martinez’s injury-hit side, but Gomez had the last laugh two minutes into added on time to lift the Latics five points clear of the relegation zone.
Wigan were forced into three changes, with captain Gary Caldwell, midfielder Ben Watson and striker Franco Di Santo all injured, although the latter was fit enough for a place on the bench.
After defeats by West Brom and Liverpool Wigan needed to get back on track and they should have been in front in the 12th minute when Jean Beausejour swung in a lovely cross on to the head of the unmarked Arouna Kone, but he somehow headed wide with Adam Federici beaten.
Reading had offered little in attack, but they began to look a threat when they sent balls into Wigan’s box.
Adam Le Fondre was the matchwinner last weekend with both goals against Everton and he twice headed just wide, first from Nicky Shorey’s corner and then a Jobi McAnuff cross.
Wigan were still in the ascendancy, though, and Kone missed another chance in the 24th minute when he tried to walk the ball in but a combination of Federici and Shorey clearing off the line denied the Ivorian.
At the other end Reading won a free-kick when Robson-Kanu was fouled by James McCarthy, who was booked, 25 yards out and Al Habsi gratefully grasped the ball at the second time of asking after it looked like Shorey’s effort had gone through him.
And the full-back was the architect when the visitors did take the lead in the 35th minute. Robson-Kanu was felled by McCarthy again, this time on the left byline, and Shorey’s curling free-kick was powered home by Morrison.
Defending high balls has been a real weakness for Wigan and it would have been a source of huge frustration for Martinez that none of his players attacked the ball.
And the frustration grew as they missed another great chance in the 39th minute, this time Gomez jinking his way into the box but shooting over with only Federici to beat.
Di Santo came on for Shaun Maloney at half-time and the Argentinian almost scored with his first touch after he was played through by Gomez, but Federici tipped the shot round the post.
It was a lively start to the second half and, after the ever-busy Le Fondre saw a shot well blocked by Ivan Ramis eight yards out, Gomez volleyed over the bar at the other end.
There were yet more problems for Martinez when Ramis was forced off to be replaced by Adrian Lopez, but in the 58th minute they were level.
Di Santo was again involved, crossing from the left, and, although Federici saved Gomez’s first effort, he could not hold it and the Spaniard tucked away the rebound.
Wigan were on a roll and Federici again spilled a shot from Ronnie Stam, but this time he pounced on the loose ball just in time.
Reading were playing on the break now, but they were almost back in front in the 62nd minute when Robson-Kanu crossed and Le Fondre flicked a header towards the corner only for Al Habsi to fling out a hand.
Wigan had not recovered a single point from losing positions all season, but they thought they were ahead when Beausejour crossed for Di Santo to tap in only for a linesman’s flag to cut short the celebrations.
They did not have to wait long, though, as in the 68th minute Beausejour sent in another peach of a cross and Gomez grabbed his second with a textbook diving header.
It was Gomez’s first Premier League start since his red card at Sunderland in September and he was certainly making a case for more regular inclusion.
The most important thing was the Wigan were on course for three points, but that all changed in the 80th minute with one of the most bizarre goals of the season.
Robson-Kanu’s shot spun high up into the air off a Wigan defender but Al Habsi seemed in control as the ball dropped back down.
However, a combination of the spin and the wet ball contributed to it slipping through the keeper’s grasp, hitting the bar before going in off the Oman international.
Gomez almost grabbed his hat-trick goal moments later only to see his shot deflected just wide, but the Spaniard did have the last word in injury time when he drilled in a pull-back from Kone, much to the relief of his goalkeeper.