The hosts claim a famous win to move out of the bottom three, while a disappointing display by the visitors sees their lead at the top cut to five points with five games to play
A Shaun Maloney super strike did the damage, handing the hosts their first ever Premier League win over the Red Devils and providing Manchester City with a lifeline in the race for the title.
After a controversial defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, Roberto Martinez opted to keep faith with his players, naming an unchanged side. United, meanwhile, made three changes with Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez coming in for Rafael Da Silva, Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck.
Yet it was Wigan who began the game strongly, as if still simmering with the injustice of Saturday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge, dominating possession, retaining the ball well and forcing United onto the back foot.
Twice inside the first 10 minutes, the Latics could have taken the lead, if not for David de Gea who once again impressed in the visitors’ goal. First the young Spaniard tipped a fizzing strike from James McCarthy over the bar and a minute later he punched Maloney’s corner clear and was relieved to see a Jean Beausejour effort fly wide of his goal.
United were struggling, yet could have taken the lead with their first chance. Hernandez looked set to break Wigan hearts but the Mexican was denied by a superb last-ditch tackle by Gary Caldwell.
The hosts continued to press, however, forcing a visibly frustrated Sir Alex Ferguson onto the touchline to bellow instructions to his players, but his words seemed to have little effect as a lethargic United continued to be outplayed by an impressive Wigan team.
Much has been made of the refereeing decisions which both teams have witnessed in recent weeks and the official was once again the talking point, disallowing a goal on the half-hour mark.
Victor Moses was the man to be denied, heading home Maloney’s corner only to see it ruled out for a foul by Caldwell on De Gea. Unsurprisingly, particularly given recent events, manager Martinez was livid on the touchline and it was little surprise to see the home fans boo referee Phil Dowd off at the break.
The champions re-emerged early for the second half, Ferguson sending his team out with one change bringing on Tom Cleverley, who spent last season on loan at Wigan, for Ashley Young.
However, it was Wigan who took the lead four minutes into the second half, ironically from a corner that the Manchester United fans were furious had been awarded. Maloney combined with Beausejour from the set piece before curling home brilliantly from the edge of the box to hand his side the lead that their performance had thoroughly deserved.
Stung by the goal, Ferguson reacted by sending on Welbeck for Hernandez but to little effect and, on the hour mark, off went Rooney for a fit-again Nani.
Still the champions toiled, with fortune now seeming to favour the hosts. An apparent Maynor Figueroa handball in the area, after a cross by Jones, was missed by referee Dowd as United belatedly began to lay siege to the Wigan goal.
However, back came the Latics with De Gea having to be alert to deny Moses and prevent the home side from doubling their lead.
With time running out, and five minutes added on, United continued to press but it simply was not to be and Wigan held on for a deserved win, with the result cheered loudly at the DW and even possibly louder down the road at the Etihad.