WALSALL 1-0 BOLTONJason McCarthy’s first goal of the season gave resilient Walsall a battling victory over high-flying Bolton, despite playing 74 minutes with ten men.
The Saddlers had to do it the hard way after Joe Edwards’ 16th-minute dismissal for an elbow on Chris Taylor, but McCarthy gave Walsall the lead nine minutes later from a Kieron Morris free-kick.
Wanderers, who started the day top and still unbeaten, pressed for an equaliser but found home goalkeeper Neil Etheridge in inspirational form.
And the Trotters were then reduced to ten men themselves in stoppage time, when Keshi Anderson was shown red for two bookable offences.
Phil Parkinson’s Trotters could have gone in front on 13 minutes, when Jamie Proctor’s looping header from Chris Taylor’s pinpoint cross clipped the top of the bar.
The Saddlers were controversially reduced to ten men three minutes later, Joe Edwards being shown a straight red card for an elbow on Chris Taylor.
Spurred on by a sense of injustice, Walsall seized the lead on 25 minutes when Kieron Morris’ free-kick was missed by Trotters keeper Mark Howard and bundled in by McCarthy.
Wanderers almost equalised immediately, but Andreas Makris was in the right place to clear Lewis Buxton’s far-post header off the line from a corner.
Despite their man disadvantage, the Saddlers remained a threat, with Kieron Morris having a curling shot deflected wide and Scott Laird firing a 30-yard free-kick straight at Howard.
Bolton - aiming for promotion after relegation last season - had chances to level with half-time approaching.
James Henry slid through Proctor, whose first-time left-footed drive was parried by Neil Etheridge, and Buxton then sent a towering header wide from the resulting corner.
Half-time: Walsall 1-0 Bolton
The home side flew back out of the traps, with Morris blasting over at the near post and Oztumer firing off target from distance - both inside the first two minutes of the second half.
With their unbeaten league record on the line, Bolton began to crank up the pressure.
Substitute Zach Clough dragged wide after being teed up by Sammy Ameobi and Taylor’s rasping 25-yarder was pushed around the post by Etheridge.
The Philippines international was called upon again moments later, as he got down quickly to save David Wheater’s downward header from a Henry corner.
Bolton continued to lay siege, with Clough lashing wide from a tight angle after a promising run.
The relentless Trotters thought they had equalised on 74 minutes, but the unbeatable Etheridge produced an outstanding one-handed save to keep out Proctor’s volley from Josh Vela’s delivery.
Etheridge then tipped over a Wheater header and Clough blazed over from close range, as the Greater Manchester club pushed in vain for an equalising goal.
A frustrating afternoon for the visitors was compounded in the fourth minute of stoppage time, when Keshi Anderson was sent off for two bookable offences.
Despite a late flurry of corners for the visitors, Walsall defended manfully to hold on for three crucial points and a first league win since the opening day.
Full-time: Walsall 1-0 Bolton
Team: Etheridge, McCarthy, O’Connor, Toner, Laird, Chambers, Edwards, Morris, Makris (Bakayoko 64’), Oztumer (Kinsella 90'), Jackson.
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Dobson, Preston, Kouhyar, Moussa.