Ten-man Sheffield Wednesday today slipped to a fifth home defeat of the season, losing 2-1 to mid-table Bolton Wanderers.
The Owls, in takeover talks with a Thai consortium, were up against it from the start after conceding a goal inside the opening two minutes through Liam Feeney.
Darren Pratley put Bolton 2-0 up before Chris Maguire reduced the deficit from the spot-kick.
Substitute Sam Hutchinson was dismissed for two bookable offences and, in the dying minutes, Claude Dielna’s venemous strike from distance forced Longergan into a fine stop, with the Bolton goalkeeper tipping the Frenchman’s effort on to the post.
It is Bolton’s fourth consecutive win at Hillsborough and the result dents Owls’ play-off aspirations.
Owls boss Stuart Gray named an unchanged starting line-up, choosing to keep faith with the same side who performed so impressively at Nottingham Forest, meaning Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker is still waiting to make his full debut.
Right-back Lewis Buxton is included on the substitutes bench, having recovered from a knee problem. He joins Sam Hutchinson and Joe Mattock, who have also recently comeback from injury lay-offs.
Wednesday made the worst possible start, falling behind after 70 seconds. Jacques Maghoma was dispossessed just outside his own penalty area by Liam Feeney, who calmly slotted a right foot shot past Keiren Westwood.
Bolton, playing a 3-5-2 formation, dominated the early skirmishes, with Feeney proving to be a dangerous attacking outlet on the right flank.
It took the Owls until the 14th minute to test Bolton’s backline. Following a clever corner routine, Maguire saw his crisp volley blocked by Tim Ream. The Owls fans screamed for a spot-kick to be awarded but referee Graham Scott was not interested.
Former England international Emile Heskey dragged a shot wide when well-placed as the visitors continued to dominate in tricky playing conditions.
They deservedly doubled their advantage when Darren Pratley pounced on a lapse in concentration by Claude Dielna and lashed a rasping drive by Westwood.
But the hosts were handed a lifeline in the 28th minute as Scott pointed to the spot following a trip on Maguire and the Scotland ace, who turned 26 yesterday, made no mistake from 12 yards to grab his fifth goal of the campaign.
Much to Bolton’s frustration, Pratley became the first player to be yellow carded after bringing down Maghoma on the half-way line.
After the re-start, Dorian Dervite, under pressure from Nuhiu, almost turned in Maguire’s centre but Lonergan was equal to it.
Bolton came close to punishing some more slack defending by Wednesday, with Josh Vela robbing Jose Semedo of possession and releasing Davies, who was expertly thwarted by Westwood.
At the other end, Maghoma tried his luck from distance but his shot lacked power and accuracy and Lonergan easily gathered his attempt.
Wanderers, managed by Neil Lennon, almost restored their two-goal lead on the stroke of half-time following a quick counter attack but Craig Davies fired straight at Westwood.
Wednesday enjoyed plenty of possession after the break but rarely looked like breaking down a well organised Bolton outfit, with Nuhiu glancing Dielna’s delivery narrowly off target.
Midway through the half, Gray made a double change, putting on Hutchinson and Jeremy Helan at the expense of Lee and Maghoma respectively. It was Hutchinson’s first outing since October 18.
It did not take the former Chelsea man long to make his mark, bringing down the outstanding Pratley close to the managerial dugouts.
With 15 minutes remaining, Bolton created a series of goal-scoring opportunities to put the contest out of the Owls’ reach. From point blank range, Davies downward header was superbly turned away by Westwood, Pratley’s venemous volley was pushed to safety by Westwood and Wanderers skipper Matt Mills struck the woodwork with a header.
Their profligacy in front of goal almost came back to haunt them when Maguire fizzed in a low cross which fell to substitute Lewis Baker, whose goal-bound strike was diverted wide by a last ditch challenge from Mills.
Moments later, Hutchinson was given his marching orders following a late tackle on Vela.
There was a controversial moment in the 88th minute when Nuhiu, following a mazy run, unleashed a fierce left foot shot which rattled the crossbar and the rebound was tapped in by May. But the Scotland international was deemed to be standing in an off-side position so was the goal was disallowed.
Scott’s decision angered the home fans who chanted ‘To the referee 2-1’.
In a frenetic finish, Eidur Gudjohnsen blasted agonisingly wide before Dielna came close to rescuing a point for the hosts in added on time only to be foiled by Lonergan.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Loovens, Lees, Dielna; Maguire, Lee, Semedo, Maghoma; Nuhiu, May. Substitutes: Kirkland, Buxton, Mattock, Hutchinson, Baker, Lavery, Helan.
Bolton: Lonergan; Mills, Dervite, Ream, Wheater, Vela, Danns, Pratley, Feeney, C Davies, Heskey. Substitutes: Bogdan, Moxey, Spearing, Trotter, Gudjohnsen, Wilkinson, Walker.