Grimsby Town gave themselves renewed hope in their battle to stay in League Two with a massive win over promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers at Blundell Park.
The Mariners took the lead in the first minute when Jay Matete opened the scoring and in an open contest, both sides created several chances.
Bolton had the ball in the net twice in the first half but in both cases, the offside flag had already gone up, while the hosts were denied by the woodwork and some good saves by keeper Matt Gilks.
But when the crucial second goal of the game came four minutes from time, it was substitute Ira Jackson Jr who struck to make the points safe.
Bolton pulled one back deep into stoppage time when Shaun Miller made it 2-1 but that goal came too late to deny the Mariners, who were rewarded for a fully committed team performance with a vital victory.
Evan Khouri was handed his league debut as one of three changes to the Town starting line-up after last week’s defeat at Bradford City.
Harry Clifton and Lenell John-Lewis returned to the team as George Williams, Filipe Morais and the suspended Stefan Payne dropped out.
James McKeown was given the nod to start in goal despite the return to fitness of Jake Eastwood, while Luke Hendrie, Elliott Hewitt, Rollin Menayese and Sam Habergham made up an unchanged back four. Clifton, Giles Coke, Matete and Khouri were the midfielders, with James Hanson joining John-Lewis in attack.
The substitutes were Ollie Battersby, Luke Spokes, Jackson, Danny Rose, Matt Green, Luke Waterfall and Julien Lamy.
Bolton were unchanged from their midweek away victory at Salford City and were looking for another win which would keep them on course for automatic promotion from League Two.
Striker Eoin Doyle would look to be among the main threats to the Town defence as he aimed to add to his tally of 17 goals so far this season.
The Mariners made a dream start to the game as they took the lead within a minute of the kick-off. John-Lewis did well to hold the ball up for MATETE, who burst into the box and drilled a low shot past keeper Matt Gilks.
Bolton’s response saw Oladapo Afolayan win a free kick just inside the Town half and after keeping possession from it, the visitors eventually created an opportunity for Lloyd Isgrove, whose effort was blocked.
Jordan Williams was shown the first yellow card of the game on six minutes for a clumsy challenge on Khouri but the danger from the resulting free kick was eventually dealt with after Hanson had won the initial header and Clifton sent a follow-up cross over from the right.
Another chance for the hosts came soon afterwards as Clifton laid the ball off for Hanson inside the penalty area but it appeared to bobble just as he shaped to shoot from 15 yards and his effort cleared the crossbar.
McKeown was called into action for the first time on nine minutes as Isgrove played a low ball across the six-yard line for George Thomason but the keeper did well to block his shot.
Seconds later, the visitors had the ball in the net when Doyle slotted past McKeown but the offside flag had already gone up against the striker, so Town’s lead remained intact.
And another chance came when a home attack broke down and the ball was played to Isgrove on the right. He picked out Afolayan but the midfielder sent his shot over the bar.
Opportunities were coming at both ends and Town’s next one was from a corner on the left. Habergham’s delivery was met by the head of Hanson and the ball eventually broke for Matete but he was denied by Gilks, who made a good save with his feet to block the Fleetwood loanee’s low drive.
Another chance for the Mariners to double their advantage came on 22 minutes when a mis-hit clearancee by Gilks fell to Hanson inside the box. The striker’s first touch forced him wide wide but a cross from the right fell for Matete, although he could not get enough contact on his volley at the far post to direct it into the net.
Matete tried his luck with a shot from 30 yards two minutes later but this time, Gilks got down to make a comfortable stop.
At the other end, Habergham was forced to concede a corner under pressure from Isgrove but the ball from the flag was cleared by Hendrie.
It had been a very open first half-hour and Bolton were the next to threaten as a loose pass in midfield was intercepted by Kieran Lee. He found Doyle but the striker’s shot from a narrow angle was kept out by McKeown.
Doyle had the ball in the net for a second time soon afterwards but again, the offside flag was raised against him as he ran onto a through-ball before slotting into the bottom corner and the score remained at 1-0.
John-Lewis hit a snap-shot on the turn from 20 yards which went over the bar as Town looked for a second goal, before a foul by Khouri on Afolayan earned him a yellow card and gave Bolton a free kick inside the Mariners’ half.
Another free kick was awarded to the visitors seconds later, this time in a central position and around 25 yards from goal. Left-back Declan John took it but his shot sailed harmlessly over the bar.
A low cross from Khouri on 41 minutes was blocked for a corner and Habergham’s delivery was headed away as far as Clifton on the edge of the box but his first-time shot went high over the bar.
At the other end, a foul by Matete gave the away side a free kick on the right but Isgrove’s ball to the far post was claimed by McKeown.
Two added minutes were played at the end of what had been an entertaining first half and Town were given another opportunity to create danger with a free kick midway inside the Bolton half, although they failed to capitalise as the offside flag went up when Habergham floated the ball into the box.
No further chances came before the half-time whistle, meaning the Mariners went into the dressing rooms with the lead at the interval.
Neither side made any changes before the restart and Town went close to making it 2-0 with their first attack of the second half. Hanson shrugged off his marker and had a shot saved from inside the box but when the rebound fell for John-Lewis, his effort was also blocked. Town kept the ball in the danger zone but nobody could force it into the net and Bolton eventually cleared their lines.
Clifton won a free kick on the right on 51 minutes but Habergham’s delivery beat everybody and went out at the far post for a goal kick.
Town were creating the better openings and another one came when a Habergham cross from the left was headed down by Hanson but nobody in black and white could get to the loose ball.
A better chance came on 56 minutes when a shot from Clifton was kept out by Gilks. The rebound fell for Hanson but he crashed it against the underside of the bar and again, Bolton escaped.
A powerful shot by Afolayan at the other end was blocked for a corner, before a superb reaction save by McKeown denied Doyle from close range.
Clifton was booked for a foul on Gilks, before a flick on the halfway line by Doyle launched a break for the visitors. The ball was played to Afolayan but he opted not to shoot and instead, pulled it back across goal, where it was put behind for a corner.
Town were the next to create an opportunity as Clifton pulled the ball back from the right for John-Lewis. The striker aimed for the far corner of the net but Gilks dived to keep it out and Khouri sent the rebound over the bar.
A sequence of sharp passing around the edge of the Town box on 63 minutes led to John playing a low ball to the far post but Doyle could not reach it and it went out for a goal kick.
Bolton made a double-substitution on 70 minutes as Nathan Delfouneso and Zak Elbouzedi came on for Isgrove and Afolayan, with the visitors still looking for a way back into the contest.
Clifton had a chance soon afterwards after a cross from Habergham was headed down by Hanson but he could not get enough power on the strike to seriously trouble Gilks, who got down to make a stop.
Hendrie then had to make a good challenge to stop the ball from reaching Delfouneso inside the Town penalty area, with the referee blowing for a foul on the right-back.
John was replaced by Brockbank and Shaun Miller came on for Lee in another double-substitution by the visitors on 76 minutes.
Brockbank won a corner on 79 minutes, which was headed clear, before Spokes replaced Khouri in Town’s first change.
Hendrie went down with an injury with seven minutes to go and had to come off, with Jackson sent on in his place.
The next substitution saw Arthur Gnahoua replace Doyle for the away side, with time now running out for them to take anything from the game.
And with four minutes to go, the Mariners made the points safe as they grabbed a crucial second goal. Clifton did well to make space for a cross from the right and JACKSON was in the right place to force the ball past Gilks and into the net from close range.
Town were forced to endure six minutes of added time and they faced a nervous finish to the game when MILLER pulled a goal back for Bolton, smashing into the corner of the net from eight yards in the fifth of the extra minutes.
But the Mariners were not to be denied and they saw out the remainer of the game to earn a huge win and move to within four points of third-from-bottom Colchester United ahead of their fixture later in the afternoon.
Town are next in action on Tuesday, when Morecambe are the visitors to Blundell Park.
1 James McKeown
2 Luke Hendrie
36 Sam Habergham
22 Elliott Hewitt
26 Rollin Menayese
8 Giles Coke
15 Harry Clifton
20 Jay Matete
31 Evan Khouri
9 James Hanson
21 Lenell John-Lewis (C)
13 Ollie Battersby
6 Luke Waterfall
4 Danny Rose
14 Luke Spokes
7 Matt Green
16 Ira Jackson Jr
42 Julien Lamy
13 Matthew Gilks
2 Gethin Jones
28 Declan John
5 Ricardo Santos
27 Alex Baptiste
29 Kieran Lee
23 Lloyd Isgrove
4 M.J. Williams
25 George Thomason
30 Oladapo Afolayan
9 Eoin Doyle (C)
21 Harry Brockbank
6 Ryan Delaney
18 Andrew Tutte
7 Nathan Delfouneso
31 Zak Elbouzedi
24 Arthur Gnahoua
20 Shaun Miller
Referee: Carl Brook
Next Up: Morecambe (H)