Latics’ 1-0 home defeat by npower League One leaders Tranmere Rovers ended a miserable week for Paul Dickov’s side.
Back-to-back losses at Boundary Park against Bury and Tranmere in the space of four days had left Latics entrenched in the lower reaches of the table.
Adam McGurk was Tranmere’s matchwinner as the Wirral side recorded its sixth away league victory to strengthen their position at the top of the table ensuring it was also a happy return for ex-Latics’ manager Ronnie Moore.
And to make matters even worse Dean Furman and James Wesolowski both picked up their fifth bookings which rules them out of next Saturday’s game at Bournemouth.
Latics’ manager, reflecting on what might have been, said: "We had two home games and were looking to kick on. Two defeats is bitterly disappointing.
"If we were looking for a positive, we wanted a react to the Bury defeat and we played the team which is top of the table. Tranmere have been brushing teams aside but, if anything, I thought we were probably the better team.
"We knew we were better than Tuesday night which wasn’t good enough."
Dickov believed the game was won and lost in relation to second balls in both penalty areas.
He explained: "We put plenty of balls into their box and won some good first headers, but then they anticipated and cleared.
"We switched off from a set-piece and paid for it. We were flat footed as they anticipated the second ball and scored. That was the difference."
Latics were without Robbie Simpson who was ruled out through a groin strain. But there was some cheer as Jose Baxter was passed fit to play after being hurt in midweek.
Captain Dean Furman replaced Simpson, the one change from the side beaten by Bury.
Tranmere made the livelier start creating two half chances inside three minutes while Furman was also booked in the opening minutes.
Baxter had an audacious shot from the centre circle after spotting Owain Fon-Williams had strayed off his line. The keeper was forced to make a decent save.
Another chance fell to Baxter who fired wide while Cristian Montano brought a brilliant save from Fon-Williams after Latics made a dangerous three-versus-three break.
Latics finished the half strongly as Tranmere had three glorious chances to take the lead.
Jake Cassidy broke down the right and crossed for James Wallace who fired wide at the near post when he looked certain to score.
Jake Jervis had a thunderbolt shot which luckily flew straight to keeper Dean Bouzanis while Cassidy latched on to Matt Derbyshire’s weak back pass only to fire wide with only Bouzanis to beat.
Latics survived to the break, but failed to take advantage of that good fortune as they made an equally wretched start to the second period.
McGurk’s free kick was curled over the defensive wall, but clipped the top of the crossbar.
Wesolowski then picked up his fifth booking as he, too, will join Furman on the sidelines next weekend.
Tranmere made the breakthrough in the 54th minute as Latics switched off from a free kick. Jervis crossed from the left and McGurk popped up at the far post to steer home a low, angled shot.
Dickov’s immediate response was to take off Wesolowski and replace him with Matt Smith as Baxter dropped into midfield.
Later Youssouf M’Changama took over from Cliff Byrne as Latics went three at the back in pursuit of an equaliser while scholar Chris Sutherland was introduced on the right wing from Lee Croft for the last seven minutes.
Latics enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked finesse and a cutting edge as they were unable to turn territorial advantage into goals as Tranmere’s defensive shield held firm.
There were a couple of late chances as Furman’s drive was deflected narrowly wide while in stoppage time M’Changama’s drive forced an acrobatic save from Fon-Williams.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Wabara, Tarkowski, Byrne (M’Changama 73), Grounds; Croft (Sutherland 83), Wesolowski (Smith 57), Furman, Montano; Derbyshire, Baxter. Subs (not used): Cisak, Brown, Smith, Taylor, M’Changama, Sutherland, Cooper.
Tranmere (4-4-2): Fon-Williams; Holmes (Kay 19), Taylor, Gibson, Bakayogo; Thompson (Harrison 77), Palmer, Wallace, McGurk; Cassidy, Jervis (Stockton 83). Subs (not used): Goodison, Kirby, Power, Mooney.
The goal: McGurk (54) for Tranmere.
Bookings: Furman (4), Wesolowski (52), Byrne (72) for Latics. Taylor (39), Palmer (73) and Kay (78) for Tranmere.
Referee: Mr A Woolmer.
Attendance: 5,159 (1,250 visitors).