It was not just the victory, but the manner of the performance which was most satisfying as Latics returned to winning ways in npower League One against Milton Keynes Dons at Boundary Park.
Latics recorded their first league win for almost two months in the first match of the post Paul Dickov era after a top-drawer performance against one of the division’s leading teams.
Goals from Lee Barnard and Chris Iwelumo – both were making their home debuts – and Jean-Yves M’voto earned Latics three valuable points in the battle to climb out of the bottom four.
Though Latics remain in the relegation places, caretaker manager Tony Philliskirk is convinced they will quickly climb out of the danger zone.
He also believed tumbling into the relegation places was the jolt to the players as he explained: "When you are just outside the bottom four, you think you will be alright. But after dropping in it, the realisation has kicked in that we are in trouble.
"I told the players afterwards that if we maintain this level of performance, there is no team in this league we should fear, home or away.
"Whoever takes over will inherit a good group of players who showed they are far better than our league position suggests. They have to take confidence from this win, not rest on their laurels and continue to get the points needed to get us out of trouble."
Philliskirk added that Latics’ goals came at good times while there was a spell in the second half when they needed to defend "heroically" when Dons tried to force their way back into the game.
He said: "If you had told me before the game we would have won 3-1, I would have snapped off your hand. To win the way we did was very pleasing.
"The most important thing was to pick up three points and I would have taken playing poorly and winning 1-0 rather than playing well, getting pats on the back and getting beaten.
"I thought we played really well for an hour and in the first half there were times when we looked exciting."
Philliskirk was pleased how the training-ground work to nullify Dons paid off while he thought they were a constant threat attacking.
He also praised the attitude of the loan players adding they have been great additions to the team.
Philliskirk also commended senior players Cliff Byrne and Dean Furman for the help and support they had given him.
Latics made two changes from the team beaten at Walsall as loan-player Jordan Obita was handed his first start while there was a recall for James Tarkowski. The two players to stand down were Byrne, who was helping from the sidelines, and Carl Winchester.
After a cagey opening, Latics went ahead midway through the opening half as Barnard made it two goals in as many appearances for the club.
Dean Lewington failed to clear a Lee Croft cross and Barnard fired home an angled shot from six yards into the far corner.
Latics had chances to build on their advantage as Obita and Jose Baxter both forced decent saves from Dons’ keeper David Martin.
There was a shock when Dons equalised in the 39th minute after a classic counter-attack move in which Jon Otsemobor released Daniel Powell who sprinted away down the right and fired a terrific shot from the right of the box high into the far corner.
Latics were given the perfect pick-me-up when they regained the lead shortly before the break with a fabulous set-piece goal. Baxter delivered a delightful free kick for M’voto to head high into the roof of the net.
Iwelumo had a great chance to open his scoring account for Latics early in the second half but shot wide after seizing on a defensive error.
It was not long before he made it 3-1 as Latics extended their advantage in the 52nd minute.
Obita, a constant threat down the left, fired over a probing, low cross which Martin was unable to hold and Iwelumo (pictured celebrating his goal) fired the loose ball high into the roof of the net.
Latics had to endure a couple of anxious moments in the final quarter of the game, but overall defended resolutely.
Substitute Izale McLeod was put clear but shot over while Shaun Williams had a free header at keeper Dean Bouzanis and Lewington headed over from a corner.
Latics still had their moments and a sign of the confidence oozing through the team came when Baxter attempted an audacious shot from half way after spotting Martin had strayed off his line.
Latics (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Brown (Byrne 90+2), Tarkowski, M’voto, Grounds; Croft (Furman 68), Wesolowski, Baxter, Obita (Taylor 87); Barnard, Iwelumo. Subs (not used): Cisak, Murray, Millar, Winchester.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, McKenzie, Williams, Lewington; Potter, Lines (McLeod 55); Powell, Harley (Chadwick 46), Bowditch; Smith (Chicksen 67). Subs (not used): Kouo-Doumbe, Baldock, Flanagan.
The goals: Barnard (22), M’voto (43), Iwelumo (52) for Latics. Potter (39) for Latics.
Referee: Mr D Whitsone.
Attendance: 4,094 (185 visitors)