Ten-man Wigan denied Joe Kinnear's side a dramatic late victory after former Newcastle defender Titus Bramble snatched a last-gasp equaliser.
Ryan Taylor's brilliant 20-yard strike put the visitors ahead early on but Emmerson Boyce was harshly awarded a second yellow card after half-time.
With 10 minutes remaining, substitute Michael Owen stabbed in for Newcastle.
Obafemi Martins then smashed in a second to send St James' Park wild, but Bramble headed home in the last minute.
The result means Newcastle climb out of the relegation zone into 17th place while Wigan sit above them in 16th, while both clubs retain identical Premier League records of three wins, four draws and six defeats each.
That kind of inconsistency was reflected on the pitch as both sets of players struggled to show any real cutting edge - until a thrilling final 10 minutes saw the game explode into life.
Mixed feelings for Kinnear after draw
Newcastle interim boss Kinnear again left Owen - not long ago a hugely prolific goalscorer for England - on the bench, while Wigan were evidently handicapped by the absence of first-choice strikers Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki.
Yet the visitors got off to a dream start thanks to a goal of the highest order in the third minute.
After neat interplay on Wigan's left wing, Taylor found the ball bouncing in front of his feet, 20 yards from goal.
Instinctively, he kicked across it with the outside of his right foot to arch it over a back-pedalling Shay Given into the top corner.
From that point on, the game descended into a largely physical battle.
Lee Cattermole was biting hard into tackles and Joey Barton had to be replaced by Danny Guthrie after a heavy challenge from the Wigan midfielder in the 15th minute.
Jonas Gutierrez shone for the home side but their first real sight of goal only came after 37 minutes, when Shola Ameobi rose high to meet Damien Duff's cross from the right only to head well over.
Newcastle were struggling for inspiration though Martins should have scored just before half-time after Bramble had inadvertently played him in.
Boyce sending-off leaves Bruce fuming
One-on-one and 15 yards from goal, he shot straight at on-rushing keeper Chris Kirkland and the ball deflected away from danger.
Ten minutes after the break referee Andre Marriner sent Boyce off for a second bookable offence (the first was for unsporting behaviour) after he was adjudged to have fouled Ameobi, despite getting the ball.
With Newcastle still lacking any cutting edge, Kinnear brought Owen on for Gutierrez in the 67th minute - and it soon paid dividends.
Full of danger, Owen missed an simple chance from six yards and tested Kirkland with a header, though Wigan could have gone 2-0 up after Henri Camara raced past Fabricio Coloccini and saw his shot come back off the inside of the post.
Barton was taken off after a heavy challenge from Lee Cattermole
With 10 minutes remaining Kirkland spilled Ameobi's powerful low shot and Owen, inevitably, was on hand to stab home from four yards out.
Minutes later Martins took a pass from substitute Charles N'Zogbia before smashing the ball spectacularly past Kirkland from 15 yards as St James' Park erupted in what looked to be the defining moment of the match.
But, in the last minute, Bramble headed the ball home from a corner with Duff only able to help the ball in as it crossed the line.
Newcastle interim manager Joe Kinnear: "It was highs and lows, wasn't it? That's the worst we have started since I have been here, in the first half.
"We went for broke with three strikers up and created numerous chances. We should have put the game to bed, really.
"We have got to sit down and talk to him about a new contract [with Michael Owen], if I am allowed to do that."
Wigan boss Steve Bruce: "I think we comfortably would have gone on to win the game with 11 - we should have won the game with 10, if Henri Camara had taken his chance.
"Titus has taken some stick over the years, particularly playing for this club.
"He was spot-on, but he was like that against Liverpool, he was like that against Portsmouth. He has been terrific of late."
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