City were without the injured Micah Richards and suspended Martin Petrov, and the loss of two such influential figures was keenly felt in a first-half that made a mockery of its billing as entertainment.
Stephen Ireland almost opened the scoring after 23 minutes with a curling shot that drifted just off target and Wigan keeper Kirkland needed to be brave to dive at the feet of Benjani as the striker's touch let him down.
City playmaker Elano, whose form has waned in recent months, was struggling to make an impact - although his cause was not helped by a reckless late challenge from Michael Brown that earned the Wigan midfielder a yellow card.
And the Brazilian's game was over when he collapsed holding his leg after playing a long raking pass two minutes into the second half, and was carried off with a thigh injury.
New teenage striker Felipe Caicedo came on, and the £5m star was instrumental in creating an opening for Benjani, but his shot on the turn was saved with ease by Kirkland.
Wigan, while comfortable in defence, had not shown serious attacking threat, but City defender Richard Dunne needed to be well-positioned to block a goal-bound shot from Marlon King.
City should have taken the lead with 20 minutes left, courtesy of the game's best passage of play. The lively Caicedo released Vassell, but Benjani guided his perfect cross off target when it seemed certain he would score.
Wigan had a rare opportunity after 75 minutes when Emile Heskey got to a loose ball ahead of City keeper Hart, but his cross was turned wide by substitute Antoine Sibierski.
And the visitors had an even better chance to open the scoring nine minutes from time when Heskey set up Palacios, but Hart made a brilliant block to ensure City remained on terms.
Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson: "If we don't attack quickly it is difficult to create. But I thought we were dangerous right til the end but we couldn't score.
"We were a little bit unlucky - Benjani could have scored once or twice.
"I am concerned that we don't score goals at home and we find it hard to break teams down. We need to win soon."
Wigan manager Steve Bruce: "You'll always take a point but I think we should have won it. City were chasing the game and we had one or two good chances.
"If we keep playing like that and showing composure we will be ok. I thought at times we were excellent.
"We had worked hard on keeping in the game until the last 10 minutes but we didn't take our chance to win it."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.