Bolton Wanderers came back from behind to seal a vital victory against Southend United which sent the University of Bolton Stadium faithful home with some festive cheer.
Harry Lennon put the visitors in front after ten minutes which threatened to sour the Christmas atmosphere, but great strikes from Joe Dodoo and Luke Murphy sent Wanderers into the break a goal to the good.
Daryl Murphy’s sixth goal in seven games extended Wanderers’ lead midway through the second-half before Shrimpers’ captain Tim Dieng reduced arrears to set up a tense finale.
Manager Keith Hill made two changes from the side that lost to Peterborough last weekend with Jake Wright and Thibaud Verlinden coming in for Adam Chicksen and Yoan Zouma.
The visitors enjoyed the brighter moments of the opening exchanges, but the lively Dodoo got the home supporters off their seats with run down the left hand side past Elvis Bwomono, but his cross went behind for a goal kick.
Stephen McLaughlin headed narrowly wide as he connected to a Lennon cross as the visitors looked to capitalise on their strong start.
Their persistence paid off after ten minutes when Lennon got on the end of Sam Manton’s corner to steer a header past Remi Matthews.
One almost became two and Steven Humphrys saw a long range shot deflect for a corner kick after he had lost the attention of Jason Lowe.
Wanderers had their first chance just after the half hour mark when Lowe hit the ball over after good work from Josh Emmanuel and Daryl Murphy created the difficult opportunity.
The hosts’ equaliser came in spectacular style when Dodoo showed some smart control to swivel and blast a left-footed volley into the bottom corner.
Just before half-time, Matthews made an important stop to thwart a low drive from Humphrys after he was played in by McLaughlin.
But Wanderers got their noses in front inside time added on and what a goal it was! A cross was cleared into the box, only as far as Luke Murphy, who controlled the ball on his chest before lashing a volley into the corner past Nathan Bishop.
No changes were made during the interval, which got off to a steady start.
The visitors were looking to get back into the contest and Humphrys should have done better, seeing his acrobatic attempt go narrowly wide of target.
At the other end, Josh Emmanuel surged from the right before seeing a rising shot from outside the box go a yard over the bar.
Moments later, Dodoo controlled a Ronan Darcy cross with a sublime touch inside the box to lose his marker before striking the ball over the bar.
Daryl Murphy extended Wanderers’ lead after capitalising on a defensive mix-up to chip over the advancing Bishop.
The visitors were determined to reduce the arrears and did so through captain Nieng.
Wanderers held firm and saw the game out to claim a fantastic festive three points ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Sunderland.