Newcastle striker Michael Owen scored a late winner to finally crack the resistance of 10-man Wigan.
Owen had several good chances before he scored
Wigan played most of the second half with 10 men after Kevin Kilbane picked up a second yellow card following an aerial challenge with Alan Smith.
But Owen headed home Obafemi Martins' cross at the near post to score Newcastle's first Premier League goal at home since 10 February.
The Magpies dominated, Owen missing several chances before scoring.
Steve Taylor also struck the crossbar and Latics keeper Chris Kirkland made several good saves.
Wigan defended with great determination and showed a resilience that suggests they will be no soft touch this season - though that will come as scant consolation to manager Chris Hutchings.
On the balance of play Newcastle's victory was fully deserved, but as the clocked ticked down it looked as though their wait for a goal - and indeed a win - in the Premier League at St James' Park would be extended to seven games.
Mark Viduka and Owen hinted at an extremely potent partnership when the Australian headed a long ball up field into space to release the England striker with just eight minutes played.
The fit-again Owen, with a clear run at goal, did not did not outstrip the Wigan defence as he would have in his earlier years.
Nonetheless, he collected the ball down the left channel and advanced 20 yards before shooting across Kirkland, who made a superb finger-tip save.
Owen had the ball in the net shortly afterwards - converting a sharp chance from close range after James Milner's shot had struck Viduka and diverted into his path - but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Viduka was particularly lively and another flick-on from the 31-year-old struck former Newcastle defender Titus Bramble on the arm as he clumsily attempted to clear the ball but the home team's penalty appeals were in vain.
A third chance fell to Owen before the break after an untimely slip from Andreas Granqvist.
The 27-year-old, again through on goal, tried to lift the ball over an advancing Kirkland but only succeeded in clearing the crossbar.
Newcastle continued to press and might have scored minutes before the interval but Kirkland palmed clear a far-post effort from Nicky Butt while Taylor hit the crossbar with a header from a corner.
Wigan rarely threatened before the interval but almost scored twice in 60 seconds, Steve Harper saving Jason Koumas's free-kick and then stopping an Antoine Sibierski from the subsequent corner with 20 minutes played.
They were the only two decent chances Wigan created all afternoon.
The Latics hopes of taking anything from the match suffered a severe blow within a minute of the match resuming after the break when Kilbane was dismissed.
The Wigan players were incensed by referee Steve Bennett's decision, with Emile Heskey booked for his protests.
The away team's fury increased when the flag stayed down after Shola Ameobi, on for the injured Viduka at the break, tangled with Granqvist.
Several Wigan players seemed to momentarily stop while Ameobi played on and bent his shot wide of Kirkland's goal.
Magpies boss Sam Allardyce brought on Obafemi Martins for Smith as he went in search of an elusive goal.
The home team won a succession of corners and created a spate of half chances, while Butt drilled a shot over the target from 14 yards.
Taylor had the ball in the net close to the end but the offside flag had already been raised before Owen struck with four minutes of normal time left.
Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce:
"It was a great goal and overall, a very, very comfortable, good performance.
"We completely dominated the game, but found a little bit of hard luck.
"A couple of good saves from the keeper and some poor finishing meant we were frustrated at half-time that we were not one or two goals up."
Wigan boss Chris Hutchings on Kevin Kilbane's dismissal:
"It was a major decision.
"I am very disappointed with the decision. I think that the referee made some strange decisions - a few of them went against us.
"I'm very proud of the players. I'm disappointed that we came so close but have come away with nothing."
Newcastle: Harper, Taylor, Rozehnal, Cacapa, N'Zogbia, Smith (Martins 66), Geremi, Butt, Milner, Owen, Viduka (Ameobi 46).
Subs Not Used: Given, Edgar, Pattison.
Booked: Smith, N'Zogbia.
Goals: Owen 87.
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Granqvist, Bramble, Kilbane, Landzaat (Skoko 29), Brown, Scharner, Koumas (Bent 58), Sibierski (Boyce 48), Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Aghahowa.
Sent Off: Kilbane (46).
Booked: Kilbane, Heskey, Scharner, Brown.
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).