Another blistering Alex Mowatt goal helped Leeds United overcome a poor first half and a dire pitch at the DW Stadium.
The 20-year-old midfielder - one of the stars of United’s difficult season - buried his eighth goal of the campaign from long range on 51 minutes, plunging Wigan Athletic deeper into relegation trouble.
Mowatt’s finish was a rare piece of magic in a turgid contest which suffered on a woeful surface but opened up after his decisive strike.
Wigan, who are now eight points from safety, pressurised United’s defence in search of an equaliser but failed to finish off a number of situations where Leeds were caught at full stretch.
Neil Redfearn admitted Mowatt’s goal illuminated an otherwise low-quality game.
“It was a bit of quality and brilliance that was probably not in keeping with the rest of the game,” the Leeds boss said.
“But if anyone was going to win the game, it was going to be us.
“I thought we should have had a blatant penalty in the first half, but we don’t seem to get these decisions.
“I thought we had a resoluteness about us, and a real toughness to get across the line again.
“It’s been a facet of our performances in recent weeks and months, and it was nice to get the points.”
United head coach Neil Redfearn was forced to make two changes to his line-up after injury ruled out Sam Byram and Liam Cooper.
Gaetano Berardi stepped into replace Cooper - his first start since Leeds’ 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers on January 10 - and Byram’s absence brought Steve Morison back into United’s side.
Redfearn, however, kept faith with the rest of the players who inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Ipswich Town at Elland Road on Wednesday. Development-squad midfielder Kalvin Phillips was named on United’s bench for the first time.
Relegation-threatened Wigan had won their previous two games, including a midweek visit to Norwich City, but the pitch helped neither team and chances were few in the first half.
Sol Bamba - an oustanding presence in Redfearn’s backline - headed Luke Murphy’s corner into Scott Carson’s hands early on from a position where he might have troubled the goalkeeper and Emmerson Boyce was more wayward with a headed finish at the other end.
Leeds could have had a penalty on 22 minutes when Gaetan Bong went through the back of Billy Sharp inside Wigan’s box but referee Geoff Eltringham refused to penalise Wigan’s left-back, to the anger of Sharp and Redfearn.
Long-range shots from Charlie Taylor and Kim Bo-kyung also failed to force the opening goal, Kim’s effort deflecting wide off the heel of Bamba, and the first half never looked like providing the breakthrough. Morison’s only opportunity went begging when he hooked a volley from Mowatt’s cross over the crossbar.
James McClean came closest to beating Marco Silvestri at the very start of the second half when his strike on the turn was tipped wide by the Italian keeper but Mowatt lit up a poor spectacle with a brilliant finish on 51 minutes.
The midfielder produced another sublime left-footed finish, smashing the ball beyond Carson from the edge of the box and whipping up an away crowd of more than 4,500 behind Carson’s net.
Wigan responded immediately but Silvestri pushed away another McClean strike and both the Irishman and Marc-Antoine Fortune saw inviting cut-backs slip just beyond them as the Latics’ precision let them down where it mattered.
A one-handed save from Silvestri kept out McClean’s free-kick at the death, sealing United’s victory.
Wigan Athletic: Carson, Maguire, Boyce (Kvist 67), Pearce, Bong, Perch, Kim, McClean, Pennant (Cowie 46), Ojo, Fortune (McKay 78). Subs (not used): Waghorn, McCann, Barnett, Al Habsi.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi, Murphy, Cook, Mowatt, C Taylor, Morison (Cani 87), Sharp (Antenucci 87). Subs (not used): S Taylor, Del Fabro, Adryan, Doukara, Phillips.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham)