A relieved Lampard celebrates his last-gasp winner
Frank Lampard's last-gasp header broke Wigan hearts to send Chelsea second in the Premier League table and keep alive their lingering title chances.
John Terry's spectacular mid-air volley had put the Londoners ahead despite Wigan dominating the early exchanges.
Oliver Kapo seemed to have earned the visitors a point with a late goal of his own, turning in Maynor Figueroa's teasing cross with eight minutes to go.
But in injury time Lampard looped a header past Chris Kirkland.
Latics boss Steve Bruce will wonder how his side failed to take something from the game after a fine opening 20 minutes in which they were much the better side.
Players working harder for Hiddink - Lampard
They harassed and harangued a hassled-looking home side at every move and they had three glorious chances to go ahead.
Blues keeper Petr Cech made a wonderful save to deny Paul Scharner who ran through unopposed after a sweeping counter-attack involving Mario Melchiot and Amr Zaki.
A scrambling Ashley Cole then did well to clear Titus Bramble's towering header off the line.
Terry then somehow managed to clear the follow-up effort from Charles N'Zogbia as he raced back towards his own goal.
Such was Wigan's early threat that both Terry and Alex were also cautioned in those opening 20 minutes.
The tenacity of Lee Cattermole and Michael Brown was denying the home side time and space in midfield, Zaki was posing problems up front and the much-maligned Bramble looked in masterful form in defence.
But with a Wigan goal seemingly inevitable, suddenly Chelsea, who have yet to lose to Wigan in eight Premier League matches, came to life.
Mikel (l) races to congratulate skipper Terry on his superb volleyed opener
Didier Drogba fizzed a shot across goal and moments later Jon Mikel Obi had a fierce 20-yard effort tipped over by Kirkland.
And with the Blues suddenly looking like the side that so impressed in the opening quarter against Juventus in midweek, Terry put them ahead with a spectacular scissor-kick volley.
The England skipper readjusted his feet and leapt in the air to send a crisp strike past the unfortunate Kirkland via a crucial deflection off Emmerson Boyce.
Terry's fellow centre-half Alex then saw his close-range strike blocked by Kirkland.
The home side were totally dominating and the chances continued to come.
Lampard saw his attempted dinked finish well blocked by the excellent Kirkland and he then shot wastefully at Kirkland while Terry fired well wide from 12 yards.
The second half promised more of the same as Bramble acrobatically cleared Drogba's goalbound effort after a delightful reverse pass from Lampard.
But Chelsea's failure to kill teams off, which has seen them score just 11 goals in their last 10 league matches, almost came back to haunt them.
Scharner sent a flying header well over the bar and the ever-willing Zaki curled a chance wide from 20 yards.
And with Chelsea starting to get twitchy, Wigan capitalised.
Maynor Figueroa tricked his way down the left flank and his inviting low cross was forced home at the near post by Kapo despite Cech's best efforts.
But with the game in injury-time, a long ball into the box was flicked on by Michael Ballack and the inspirational Lampard leapt above Melchiot to nod the winner.
Wigan claimed a push by the England midfielder but the goal stood and enabled Chelsea to close the gap on leaders Manchester United to seven points and leave the Latics without a win in seven games.
Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink:
"The team reacted well after we conceded. It is always difficult to get into the next game after playing at European level in midweek.
Man United's title to lose - Hiddink
"But Wigan deserve a lot of respect for the way they played. they are hard-working and disciplined and play decent football. They caused us lots of problems.
"They scored the equaliser but the reaction of our team was good in getting the winner in the 90th minute.
"When you are dominating in the first period we like the game killed. But I am happy and satisfied for the win.
"But the way we gave away the control in the second-half is not super-satisfying. I have to be happy but also critical as to where we need to improve."
Wigan boss Steve Bruce:
"I thought we deserved something but we didn't get it unfortunately.
We were robbed - Bruce
"In my opinion the referee has made a poor decision. He is only 15 yards away from it. Frank has obviously got his hand in Mario's back and he has turned him round as he's gone to head it.
"It is obvious that he has got that one wrong and it has gone against us. That is a big shame because I thought the team deserved to get something from the game.
"We don't seem to get these decisions in big games, on a big stage.
"We need the referee to be strong and not to get influenced. But it seems to happen all the time. We can go to Anfield and Stamford Bridge and it doesn't seem to matter against little Wigan. It is very frustrating and disappointing as you can imagine."
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