It was the home side who took the lead in the 31st minute when Jamie O'Hara slotted home a Kevin Doyle cross.
But Ben Watson levelled for Wigan, hammering in a rebound after Wayne Hennessey saved his initial penalty, awarded for a block on Emmerson Boyce.
David Edwards restored Wolves' lead from close range and Stephen Ward's finish sealed the win.McCarthy 'relieved' to end winless run
The victory is a massive boost for Wolves, lifting them away from the relegation zone and up to 13th with 11 points from the same number of games.
But Wigan remain bottom of the table and deep in trouble having set a new club record of eight straight defeats in the Premier League. No other side in the competition's history has gone on such a run and avoided relegation.
Despite the woeful form of both these sides heading into the game, only the latter made one unenforced change - Franco Di Santo replacing Albert Crusat.
You suspect both teams have greater potential than they have shown so far but it is clear to see why they have struggled.
This was a game marred by little respect for possession, nervous, hesitant defending and wastefulness in the final third.
Having received criticism from what he called "mindless idiots" among the Wolves support recently, manager Mick McCarthy had called on his players to get the Molineux faithful on their side from the off.
They did their best to deliver, twice capitalising on hesitancy in the Wigan defence to fashion decent chances.Continue reading the main story
Prior to this match, Wolves had conceded at least two goals in each of their last 7 PL matches (1 draw, 6 defeats). This represents the longest such streak in Premier League history
However, David Edwards's 20-yard strike was saved by Ali Al-Habsi and then, minutes later, Stephen Hunt spurned a good opportunity after skipping past a challenge from the Latics keeper that could have resulted in a penalty had the winger gone to ground instead.
Such wastefulness was nothing in comparison to that practised by Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega at the other end.
The Colombian first headed a Victor Moses cross horribly wide - but was spared his blushes somewhat by an assistant referee's flag - before then firing straight at Hennessey from inside the box after Karl Henry had been dispossessed in midfield.
Rodallega bested both of those on the half-hour though when he was found in the box by a superb long-range floated pass from Di Santo but side-footed wide of goal with just the keeper to beat.
The miss would only prove more costly just 35 seconds later as Wolves swept down the other end and Doyle crossed for O'Hara to slot home the opener.
However, Wolves had not suggested a clean-sheet was in the offing - and so it proved 10 minutes later when Boyce's run was halted by the shoulder of Hunt in the box for a penalty.
Watson's initial effort was saved by Hennessey but the rebound fell kindly to the midfielder to hammer into the largely unguarded net.
If Wigan just shaded the first half, the second 45 minutes belonged to Wolves.
In the 55th minute, they reclaimed the lead when Edwards was on hand to finish after Al-Habsi had shown great athleticism to save efforts from both Hunt and O'Hara.Negative feelings weigh down Martinez
Shortly after, the home side took complete control as Ward finished on the follow-up after Al-Habsi saved O'Hara's initial shot.
Wigan's efforts to get back into the game summed up their afternoon - and arguably their season - as Steve Gohouri was denied by Hennessey with a header from a corner before Mohamed Diame fired horribly wide from 12 yards.Wolves manager Mick McCarthy:
"It all looks different with one win and we knew that would be the case.
"But it was much needed. We can't keep going on saying we did alright. You've got to win a game and today was the one we needed to win against Wigan.
"What pleased me most was the reaction after taking the lead and then conceding a penalty.
"It was the great togetherness of the place. The crowd were brilliant. We conceded the penalty and they got the lads going again."Wigan manager Roberto Martinez:
"We couldn't get properly going today. We allowed the first goal to affect all the performance too much.
"We had a great chance in a one-against-one situation (from Hugo Rodallega). We usually take those and then they went up the other end and scored a little bit of a soft goal.
"From then on it seemed the day was going into Wolves' hands which was a little bit disappointing."