Steven Fletcher fired Sunderland to their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season with his fifth goal in four games to secure a 1-0 victory.
The 25-year-old turned James McClean's 51st-minute cross-shot past keeper Ali Al Habsi to win a match of little quality.
Wigan were made to pay for a rush of blood from Jordi Gomez, who was sent off just two minutes into the second half for a dangerous lunge at defender Danny Rose and a game in which his side had enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes turned on its head.
Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill will have been delighted to see his team end a 12-game wait for a league victory dating back to last season, but it might have been very different had it not been for Gomez's lack of discipline and keeper Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland were boosted by the return of England winger Adam Johnson, who had passed a late fitness test on his thigh injury, but deprived of the services of suspended skipper Lee Cattermole.
The visitors could have been ahead with just four minutes gone when Republic of Ireland international James McCarthy was allowed to waltz through a statuesque Black Cats defence, only to see his left-foot shot blocked by Mignolet.
For their part, Sunderland created little of note with in-form striker Fletcher feeding off scraps for long periods with wide-men Johnson and McClean unable to provide him with any meaningful supply. The half finished as it had started with Wigan threatening once again two minutes before the whistle when McCarthy sent a long-range effort inches wide.
There seemed to be little danger as left-back Danny Rose picked up possession on halfway two minutes after the restart, but Gomez leapt into an ugly challenge to leave the Sunderland man in a heap and referee Howard Webb with little option to produce a red card.
The home side made their numerical advantage count within four minutes when McClean broke into the box and appeared to drag his shot across the face of goal. The ball fell perfectly for Fletcher, who swept it home without a second thought to break the deadlock.
Martinez sent on striker Franco di Santo for Shaun Maloney on the hour, but the game was rapidly slipping from his side's grasp and Sunderland held out in what was an untidy conclusion to claim three valuable points.