Middlesbrough were almost ahead inside three minutes, Ashley Fletcher taking delivery of a long ball and getting goalside of Chey Dunkley, only for the big centre-back to time his sliding challenge to perfection.
If that was an escape for Wigan, there was an even more obvious bullet dodged shortly after, when Britt Assombalonga somehow missed a completely open goal from two yards out.
Fletcher pulled his shot across goal into the path of his colleague, but the big man failed to move his feet quickly enough and could only watch in horror as the ball rolled across goal and past the far post.
A sublime piece of skill by Kal Naismith led to Wigan's first real opportunity, the Scot taking a Reece James cross on his chest and deflecting it into the path of Sam Morsy, whose shot was smothered by Darren Randolph.
But back came Boro and Lewis Wing tried his luck with a decent shot that struck Dunkley and deflected wide of the goal, before Mo Besic forced a fine save from Jamie Jones from distance.
Wigan started the second period in brighter fashion, and a fabulous cross from Lee Evans was headed narrowly wide of the far post by Leon Clarke.
But Boro remained a big threat on the counter and, after Assombalonga was taken out by Dunkley, Fletcher found himself one on one with Jones.
The striker took it round the goalkeeper, but dragged it too wide and could only find the side netting with his finish.
Boro did put the ball in the net inside the final quarter, but Fletcher was rightly adjudged to have barged Cedric Kipre off the ball before slipping the ball past Jones.
And not even the late introduction of Stewart Downing, Marcus Tavernier and Jordan Hugill off the bench could tip the balance the way of the visitors.
Wigan threw on Joe Garner, the last-gasp hero from last weekend's come-from-behind draw with Ipswich.
But they could not fashion an opportunity to give the much-travelled goalscorer a sight of the target.
Boro boss Tony Pulis was left to bemoan two gilt-edged opportunities in either half - from Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher - for dropping two points.
“We scored a goal at a good time at Blackburn recently, and we went on to control the game,” he said.
“We needed to do that here, but we didn’t.
“They set themselves up really, really solid. They changed their shape and certainly got people behind the ball and made it difficult for us.
“We needed that goal, which would have opened the game up, and I’m sure we would have gone on from there.”