Premier League - Dzeko sends Man City three clear
Dzeko headed home from a David Silva free-kick after 22 minutes to settle a contest that was rather too tense for the liking of City manager Roberto Mancini, who saw his side end a run of four away games without a victory in the Premier League.
Sergio Aguero could have settled City's nerves after 56 minutes with what would arguably have been the goal of the season but Dzeko bizarrely opted to take the ball off the toes of his bemused team-mate just before the Argentina striker finished off a brilliant run that took him past three men.
Wigan refused to be battered as many teams have at the hands of City this season and played their part in providing a tense finish to the evening, even if Maynor Figueroa risked a dismissal, and infuriated Mancini by remaining on the pitch, when handballing to prevent Aguero from racing through on goal.
City made a string of defensive substitutions to contain Wigan and did enough to claim the victory that takes them three points clear of United and leaves their opponents one point adrift at the wrong end of the table.
Mancini's men were looking to end a disappointing run of just one victory in five games in all competitions, as well as a disappointing run of form on the road, and almost suffered further trauma on their travels when pushing their luck after only three minutes.
After the City defence failed to deal with a cross from Albert Crusat, Gareth Barry clumsily knocked Jordi Gomez from behind and sent the Spaniard tumbling to the turf in the box. Referee Martin Atkinson was not interested but it looked a clear foul.
Wigan were sprightly in attack, impressively so for a side that had won only two of their past 17 matches and lost to League Two Swindon in the FA Cup last weekend, and a combination of Hugo Rodallega's physical presence and Victor Moses's more athletic attributes ensured a City defence weakened by the absence of Vincent Kompany to suspension and Kolo Toure to the African Cup of Nations were never allowed to settle.
After Gary Caldwell hammered a hopeful clearance upfield after 11 minutes, Rodallega held off Joleon Lescott before playing in his young team-mate. Moses cut back to lose his man but snatched at his shot and drove the ball over the bar from 20 yards.
However, Roberto Martinez's side always looked vulnerable in defence and it was no surprise to see them go behind to a set-piece after 22 minutes. The free-kick from Silva was gorgeous, bringing him his 11th assist of the season, as he dropped the ball onto the head of Dzeko, who exploited the space afforded to him by directing his effort out of the reach of Ali Al-Habsi.
Dzeko's first goal in 13 games for club and country was most welcome for City and the visitors subsequently sought to wrestle control of possession, even if they were lacking incisiveness in the final third. When Silva did release Aguero on the break, the forward saw his firm low effort repelled by a fine save from Al-Habsi.
Wigan were an intermittent threat, Gomez testing Joe Hart with a nasty curling, dipping first-time effort after a block from Pablo Zabaleta diverted the ball kindly into his path, but City, as befitting the disparity between the sides' respective positions in the league table, were the more accomplished with the ball as the first half drew to a close.
Having maintained their run of being the only Premier League team yet to be behind at half-time this season, City looked to push on to secure their victory and were denied by an excellent double save from Al-Habsi early in the second half.
The Wigan keeper first flung out an arm to claw away a curling effort from Dzeko that was heading to the top corner, and after Samir Nasri collected the loose ball and cut it back to Silva he was on hand again to block the effort from the Spain international.
Just a minute later, it was one of City's own players foiling their best-laid plans. Aguero picked the ball up from Silva in the centre of the pitch and embarked on a quite brilliant run that took him past three markers as he weaved his way into the box and across goal. Just as the Argentine was ready to pull the trigger and score a goal worthy of his father-in-law - a certain Diego Maradona - Dzeko opted to take it off him and fired a weak effort at Al-Habsi.
Aguero was plainly unimpressed to be denied what would have undoubtedly been one of the goals of the season, and a decisive one in this game.
On 70 minutes, City were reminded of the fragility of their one-goal lead. Milner lost possession when trying to deal with a difficult pass in midfield, allowing Rodallega to take possession in the centre of the pitch and slip in James McCarthy. As the Ireland international advanced into the box he drew an excellent save from Hart as the City keeper stuck out his left leg to block the midfielder's low effort.
Reverting to the little-loved tactics of last season, Mancini made a succession of defensive substitutions, including a rare look at Nedum Onuoha, who made his first Premier League appearance for City since April 2010.
Wigan continued to pile on pressure but City should have extended their lead. Aguero wasted another chance when collecting a pass from Milner and nipping into the box before dragging a poor effort wide.
With just a minute remaining, Aguero's presence forced Figueroa into a blatant handball on the halfway line. The Honduran was the last man, and Mancini wanted a red card, but it would be hard to argue he denied a clear goalscoring opportunity given the distance Aguero had to run.
Mancini would not let the issue rest but ultimately the moment had little impact on the scoreline as City closed out a rather unconvincing yet hugely welcome away victory.