Wigan had come into the game having won only one of their previous 14 matches, while Norwich’s run of one win from their last 10 had seen them slip from promotion contenders to mid-table.
The only goal came in the fifth minute, Howson finding time and space inside the penalty area to drill a rasping shot past Scott Carson and into the far corner.
It was almost 2-0 within seconds as Cameron Jerome wasted a gilt-edged opportunity from a similar spot as Wigan struggled to find any sort of rhythm.
The home side were playing second fiddle for the rest of the first half and, although they improved slightly after the break, they never really forced visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy into a save worthy of the name.
In a game between two struggling sides, the first goal was always going to be massive.
And it came the way of the visitors, with Howson beating Carson with a stinging drive.
It could have been even better for Norwich within two minutes, with Jerome finding himself in a virtually identical situation having got on the wrong side of Maynor Figueroa.
This time, however, the finish was feeble and straight at the goalkeeper.
The early goal had clearly given the visitors an injection of confidence, and Wigan were struggling to get a touch of the ball inside the opening quarter.
Marc-Antoine Fortune managed to wriggle away down the left, but his cross was far too high for James McClean and Callum McManaman in the box.
Norwich then worked a lovely move which saw Martin Olsson played inside McManaman, although the cross was cut out by Leon Barnett.
At the other end, Fortune shot straight at Ruddy before McManaman cut in from the left and fired just wide of the target.
Wigan were forced into a change within two minutes of the restart as Shaun Maloney was replaced by Don Cowie, and the Latics nearly fashioned a leveller when McClean’s free-kick was headed straight at Ruddy by James Perch.
A corner was then half-cleared to McManaman 20 yards from goal, but his curling shot was always wide of the mark.
And despite the introduction of Roger Espinoza and Andy Delort inside the final quarter, it was Norwich who looked the likely to add to their total.
Substitute Kyle Lafferty was claiming a penalty late on after tangling with Figueroa.
The striker managed to keep going, though, before stabbing his shot straight at Carson.