Wigan battled back to earn a point at Fulham but new boss Gary Caldwell was unable to inspire them to a much-needed win in their fight against relegation.

Fulham led twice, first through Ross McCormack’s low drive and then Matt Smith’s stunning 25-yard strike.

Jermaine Pennant’s curling free-kick cancelled out Fulham’s opener and Jason Pearce prodded in on 69 minutes to earn a draw.

The result leaves Wigan seven points from safety with four games to play.

Former Latics defender Caldwell was appointed on Tuesday with the club 23rd in the Championship.

Wigan have endured a torrid season and Caldwell has been assured he will not be judged on whether he succeeds in his daunting task of attempting to keep the 2013 FA Cup winners in the division.

His reign could hardly have got off to a worse start, with McCormack capitalising on Harry Maguire’s poor header to fire Fulham in front from the edge of the area.

Pennant’s fine free-kick brought Wigan level as the visitors dominated the opening half, enjoying two-thirds of possession without creating any other clear-cut chances.

But they were punished for not capitalising on that superiority 10 minutes before the break when Smith scored with a superb 25-yard drive, his 17th goal of the season.

Wigan, though, demonstrated the battling qualities so often displayed by their manager during his playing career as they fought back after the break, eventually levelling in scrappy fashion.

Maguire flicked on Pennant’s corner and Pearce was quickest to react to convert at the far post.

It was deserved reward for an improved Wigan performance, but the result may prove to be of little help in their bid to stay up.

Fulham manager Kit Symons: “We’re a point closer to safety and come the end of the season it might be the point that keeps us in the division.

“It’s been a tough season, to put it mildly, and realistically it was probably always going to be like that. When we stay up I certainly won’t be doing cartwheels, but I’ll breathe a sigh of relief.”