Latics moved into second spot in the table with Yanic Wildschut’s 91st minute winner at Walsall and leapfrogged Walsall and Gillingham in the race for promotion.
Wigan took the lead in the first half with a 30 yard screamer by Everton loanee Conor McAleny, but they were pegged back by Sam Mantom’s long range strike on 68 minutes.
With both sides going for the winner it was substitute Wildschut who scored a stunning individual goal to give Wigan a massively important three points.
Gary Caldwell made two changes to the team which drew with Oldham Athletic with Sam Morsy returning in place of Reece Wabara and Ryan Colclough making his full debut in place of Wildschut.
In a fiercely competitive opening both teams battled to take control of the game, but it was Latics who created the better chances in the first half.
David Perkins produced a teasing cross from the left hand side but former Walsall striker Will Grigg was unable to make the vital connection.
Ryan Colclough then showed a good turn of pace and and went past two defenders before hitting a low drive which beat Neil Etheridge but ended in the side netting.
In the 39th minute Latics were ahead. McAleny picked up a pass from Morsy and unleashed an unstoppable effort from 30 yards which flew straight past Etheridge and into the Walsall net.
Latics might have increased their lead before the interval when Donervon Daniels’s excellent low cross evaded everyone including Grigg and Chris McCann. Grigg produced a shot from 25 yards which Etheridge did well to push away to safety.
Colclough was then brought down on the edge of the box, and McAleny’s dipping free-kick went just inches over the crossbar.
Latics had deserved their lead and probably should have been further ahead at the interval.
The home side responded at the beginning of the second half with Jason Demetriou’s shot from inside the box well blocked by Morsy, then Milan Lalkovic blasted over.
But Latics should have gone further ahead when they created a series of chances. In the 53rd minute Grigg hit the side netting from close range after good work by Colclough.
McAleny shot over the crossbar from a great position after Grigg had set him up on the edge of the box. Then Grigg once again hit the side netting after looking odds on to finish when Daniels found him free in the box.
But against the run of play Walsall equalised in the 68th minute. Demetriou’s free-kick rebounded off the Wigan defensive wall to Sam Mantom, and the midfielder volleyed the ball into the top corner of the Wigan net from 30 yards out.
Walsall were boosted by the unexpected equaliser and they would have gone ahead if it was not for some top class saves from Jussi Jaaskelainenen.
Milan Lalkovic broke free and hit a low effort which the Latics keeper pushed away with his legs, but Lalkovic retrieved the rebound and fired a stinging effort from close range which Jaaskelainenen did extremely well to push into the air and eventually over the crossbar.
Latics needed to find a response and Gary Caldwell made attacking substitutions first with Wildschut replacing Colclough and then later with Craig Davies replacing Conor McAleny.
Grigg might have made the breakthrough on 75 minutes when he evaded the challenges of two Walsall defenders but he scuffed his shot and the ball went wide of the far post.
It was end to end stuff now and Jaaskelainen tipped Anthony Forde’s shot over the bar just as it was heading for the top corner.
With 91 minutes on the clock Wildschut produced a stunning winner as he cut in from the left hand side and unleashed a powerful low drive past Etheridge to send the 1800 Latics fans into delirium.
Latics surge up the table has been remarkable as they are now unbeaten in 11 games and have only lost 2 in the last 25 games. Gary Caldwell has made some astute signings and the squad now has greater quality in depth. Mix quality with a relentless never-say-die attitude and Latics have the resources to go onto win promotion.