The home side took the lead in the fourth minute when a Jean Beausejour cross found Ronnie Stam and his scuffed pull back was inexplicably turned into his own net by David Vaughan.
Sunderland, who had started the game brightly, were level in the 16th minute, when James McCarthy was peanlised for handling a Sebastian Larsson free-kick in the area and Craig Gardner coolly sent Ali Al-Habsi the wrong way from the spot.
The away side only had to wait three minutes before they took the lead, when Steven Fletcher tucked home a rebound, after his initial header was kept out by Al-Habsi.
Fletcher doubled his tally in the 42nd minute when he curled a delightful left footed shot off the bar and into the top corner, after Adam Johnson headed the ball into his path, as the Black Cats made their first half domination count.
Wigan were much improved after the break and dominated the second half. And they made a game of it in the final ten minutes, when substitute Angelo Henriquez headed in a Shaun Maloney cross.
But Martin O'Neill's men held on to further pull away from the relegation zone, while Wigan firmly remain in a battle to avoid the drop.