A bizarre penalty incident ended the Cherries’ hopes of a late comeback on a freezing cold afternoon at the Banks’s Stadium as ten-man Walsall claimed all three points.
Brett Pitman had pulled one back for Eddie Howe’s side after first-half goals from Sam Mantom and Will Grigg, but a late Grigg penalty made sure of a fourth straight win for the Saddlers.
The spot kick was awarded when Eunan O’Kane picked up the ball inside the area believing referee Andy Davies had stopped play.
Wes Thomas had also hit the bar with a close-range header at 2-1, while Febian Brandy had been sent off midway through the second half for a second bookable offence.
The defeat meant the Cherries missed the opportunity to move back into the play-off places following the decision to postpone MK Dons' fixture at Crewe.
Walsall, who started the day five points behind the visitors, had been keen to get the game on despite heavy snowfall in the build-up to kick-off, and they made a bright start.
Brandy hooked a deep cross over the bar before Jamie Paterson cut in from the right and found the side-netting with a low shot.
Meanwhile, the Cherries had early chances of their own and both Pitman and O’Kane saw shots blocked in their first meaningful attack of the afternoon.
Captain Tommy Elphick made a crucial block after 25 minutes to keep the scores level. David James couldn’t claim a long ball on the edge of the area and Grigg picked up the ball 25 yards from goal, but the defender was well placed to deflect his effort behind for a corner.
The Saddlers did take the lead just two minutes later. Mantom sent in a deep cross into a crowded penalty area and saw it bounce untouched into the far corner.
Josh McQuoid replaced Harry Arter ten minutes before time, and the winger had an immediate impact, almost setting-up an equaliser.
McQuoid picked out Pitman, who had been switched to the left hand side of midfield, with a pacy delivery and he sent a header crashing against the woodwork.
But the Cherries went into the break two goals down. Grigg controlled a long clearance and skipped past challenges from Elphick and Steve Cook before being brought down by James.
The goalkeeper did get a touch on the penalty, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Saddlers adding a second in added on time at the end of the first half.
Howe’s side needed a repeat of last season’s trip to the Midlands where they scored twice after the break to earn a point at the Banks’s Stadium, and they did pull one back within five minutes of the restart.
Pitman met Lewis Grabban’s left-footed cross and guided the ball into the far corner for his fourth goal since returning to the club in November.
Moments later Paterson hit the post after some good work down the left, and then later had a curling effort saved by James.
With less than half an hour to play, Thomas went within a few centimetres of scoring an equaliser.
The striker hit the bar with his header from inside the six-yard box which appeared to bounce down on to the line. There were few appeals from his team-mates that the ball crossed the line and the search for a leveller continued.
18 minutes from time the hosts were reduced to ten men after Brandy was shown a red card by referee Davies.
James had pushed away Malvin Benning’s free-kick before Brandy committed his second bookable offence with a late challenge on O’Kane.
Matt Tubbs was sent on for a late push and he had a great chance with his first touch. He met a low cross at the near post, but couldn’t find a way past Ian McLoughlin.
It looked like it would be one-way traffic from there on in as McQuoid had a shot saved, but Grigg made sure of the points with his second penalty of the game.
The award of the penalty may have been unusual, but the striker made the finish look routine as he ended any chances of a late comeback from the spot.
Cherries: James, Franics, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Fogden (Fletcher 81), Arter (McQuoid 35), O’Kane, Grabban, Thomas (Tubbs 74), Pitman.
Unused substitutes: Jalal, Seaborne, Partington, McDermott,.
Booked: James, McQuoid
Goal: Pitman (49)
Walsall: McLoughlin, Purkiss, Butler, Downing, Benning, Baxendale, A. Chambers, Mantom, Paterson, Brandy, Grigg.
Unused substitutes: Grof, Holden, Featherstone, Hemmings, Bowerman, J. Chambers, Taylor.
Goals: Mantom (27), Grigg (pen 45 & pen 79)
Booked: Purkiss, Baxendale, Brandy
Sent off: Brandy
Attendance: 3, 173 (317 Cherries supporters)