FRANCO DI SANTO left Steve Bruce’s job hanging by a thread with a 94th minute winner.
Di Santo bagged in injury time after Jordi Gomez penalty had levelled Seb Larsson’s early opener.
Sunderland made just one change with Larsson in for Ahmed Elmohamady.
Roberto Martinez kept faith with the same XI that scrapped their way to a 3-3 draw at home to Blackburn Rovers last week.
Larsson put Sunderland 1-0 up on his return from suspension in just the eighth minute.
From Nicklas Bendtner’s shot, Ali Al-Habsi fumbled and Larsson was on hand to power home from close range.
Kieran Richardson troubled Al-Habsi soon after with a low left-footed shot before Wes Brown saw his header blocked from the resulting cornr.
John O’Shea was the next man to be denied by Al-Habsi when his flicked header was fumbled away from a left-wing cross.
Phil Bardsley ought to have done better shortly after when he skied over at the far-post.
The Latics were handed the opportunity to level a minute before half-time when Victor Moses went down softly following a Larsson challenge.
The penalty was awarded and Gomez stepped up to stroke home the leveler.
Richardson came close again when he tamely headed wide from Jack Colback’s left-wing centre.
With injury time ebbing away, Brown lost possession to Wigan midfielder James McArthur who rolled the ball into Di Santo to hand Wigan an invaluable three points with Keiren Westwood stranded in no-mans land.
Sunderland: Westwood; O’Shea (Ji), Brown, Turner, Bardsley (Vaughan); Larsson, Cattermole (c)(Gardner), Colback, Richardson; Sessegnon; Bendtner.
Subs not used: Carson (gk); Meyler, Elmohamady & McClean.
Wigan Athletic: Al-Habsi; Stam (McArthur), Caldwell (c), Gohori, Figueroa; Diame, Jones; Moses, McCarthy, Gomez; Sammon (Di Santo).
Subs not used: Pollit (gk); Lopez, Crusat, Watson & Rodellega.
Referee: Mr K Friend
Attendance: 37 883