Hernan Crespo's superb finish deep in injury time shattered gutsy Wigan but ensured a winning start for Chelsea.
The substitute's long-range strike earned the champions a scarcely deserved three points after Wigan had battled valiantly for 93 minutes.
Damien Francis had headed against the crossbar for Wigan, while Alan Mahon and Andreas Johansson both went close.
Chelsea were far from their best though Mike Pollitt made second-half saves to thwart Crespo and Joe Cole.
It was a cruel end to the match for Wigan and their vocal supporters - but the Latics can take great heart from their performance as they battle through their first Premiership season.
Any fears that Wigan would be overwhelmed by Chelsea's expensively-assembled team were quickly dispelled as the home side played their full part in an enterprising opening phase.
New signing Henri Camara stung Petr Cech's palms after only four minutes, although Jason Roberts failed to connect properly with the rebound.
Camara then drilled the ball just wide from the edge of the area, while Drogba blazed just over the crossbar from a similar range for Chelsea.
Wigan tackled tenaciously and showed an ambition in possession that extended beyond simply hanging on.
But Arjen Robben was given too much space down the Chelsea right and twice went close, once after cutting inside and the other with a curling shot from distance.
Both teams had one excellent chance to open the scoring in the first half.
A low cross ran to Mahon at the far post after 24 minutes but, despite having time to compose himself, the Wigan player shot over.
Five minutes before the break John Terry headed over after climbing superbly to meet a corner.
It was classic Terry in all but execution.
Jose Mourinho sounded the changes at the break, replacing Robben and Eidur Gudjohnsen with Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
And they might have made an immediate impact had Cole not blazed wide from a good position after collecting Wright-Phillips' pass.
Chelsea noticeably increased the intensity and tempo of their play, pinning Wigan in their own half for long periods.
Mourinho flexed his muscles further with 59 minutes gone by introducing Crespo, who forced keeper Pollitt into action within minutes of his introduction.
Pollitt made further saves from Cole and Terry but Wigan rallied and finished.
Francis skimmed the crossbar with a far-post header, while substitute Johansson drilled the ball wide after being played through down the right and then volleyed over.
But just when Wigan seemed certain to earn at least a point Crespo - with nothing seemingly on - struck from a tight angle, leaving Pollitt with no chance.
Wigan: Pollitt, Chimbonda, De Zeeuw, Henchoz, Baines, Teale, Bullard, Francis, Mahon, Camara (Johansson 86), Roberts.
Subs Not Used: McMillan, Jackson, Walsh, Taylor.
Chelsea: Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Del Horno, Duff (Crespo 59), Lampard, Makelele, Robben (Wright-Phillips 45), Drogba, Gudjohnsen (Joe Cole 45).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Huth.
Goals: Crespo 90.
Ref: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).