Hugo Rodallega gave Latics the lead in the ninth minute when he volleyed past Wayne Hennessey and the Colombian striker then turned provider just over 10 minutes later, feeding the ball to Tom Cleverley, who slotted home to make it 2-0.
Wanderers, who had two penalty appeals turned down before the interval, pulled one back through substitute Steven Fletcher late on but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation as Wigan held out to secure a precious victory.
The pressure surrounding the game had been increased by West Ham’s 3-1 triumph at Fulham earlier in the day, which took Avram Grant’s side off the bottom of the table.
Wolves have taken their place at the foot of the league, while Wigan are up to 16th off the back of what was their first win since November 13.
The visitors created the first opening after only two minutes as Ronnie Stam sent a useful cross into the box, but James McArthur could get no power on a header which Hennessey collected comfortably.
The hosts responded with a spell of pressure and Stephen Ward won a corner after linking up well with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. It was taken by Stephen Hunt and caused a scramble in the area but the Latics managed to get the ball away.
Three minutes later, another corner led to Wigan going ahead. It was only partially cleared by the Wolves defence and the ball was sent back into the box, where Gary Caldwell flicked it over several golden shirts and Rodallega turned to fire it past Hennessey.
Christophe Berra was presented with an opportunity to quickly equalise, but it came at him too fast from a free-kick and bounced off his thigh, Ali Al Habsi getting down to make the save.
Ebanks-Blake then struck a volley from Ward’s knock-down that rose high over the bar, but soon after, Wigan had doubled their advantage.
With 20 minutes on the clock Rodallega collected a throw-in and laid the ball to Cleverley, who finished coolly to register his third goal in four games.
Wolves fans were stunned and moments later they cried out in protest as Steve Gohouri appeared to bring Ward down in the box, but referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Hunt rose to meet Dave Edwards’ cross at the far post but could not get his effort on target and Al Habsi then seemed to have been caught out by the deflection Nenad Milijas’ free-kick took on it’s way towards goal, but the Oman international pulled off an impressive save with his foot as his body moved the opposite way.
Wigan survived another penalty scare when Dean ruled Antolin Alcaraz had not handled in the area, and the visitors looked like they might add another goal just before the break but Cleverley saw his attempt blocked by Richard Stearman.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy threw on Matt Jarvis for Edwards 10 minutes into the second period in an attempt to give his side some more attacking impetus, although it was Cleverley who was looking threatening again just after the hour mark, the on-loan Manchester United midfielder getting a shot away that Hennessey was equal to.
Play immediately switched and Jarvis drove forward before sliding a ball into the danger zone, but it was dealt with by the Latics backline.
Ronald Zubar then picked up a booking after bringing down Charles N’Zogbia on the edge of the box. Ben Watson took the set-piece but sent it over the crossbar.
McCarthy made another offensive change by introducing Fletcher in place of George Elokobi and Cleverley was next into the referee’s book after he upended Jarvis.
Fletcher tried an ambitious overhead effort in the 80th minute which amounted to nothing, but with three minutes of normal time remaining, the Scotland striker handed Wolves a lifeline, prodding the ball in from close range after Jarvis’ cross had ricocheted around a crowd of players.
The home side then desperately pressed for the leveller but could not find a way through before Dean blew for full-time.