Ivan Klasnic's goal midway through the second half finally separated two clubs who have been stuck in their own private stalemate this season. It was enough to win this FA Cup fourth round replay and book a trip to Fulham on Sunday and it was fair reward for the side that seemed more committed to the competition.
For the Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, the only downside was an achilles tendon injury to his defender, Sam Ricketts. Otherwise, it was, he said: "Very pleasing from start to finish. We scored a great goal and should have had a few more."
With three draws between them already this season, these were sides who perhaps knew each other a little too well. There was not quite the degree of over-familiarity that there might have been, however, with both managers giving a run to some of their fringe players.
Wigan, with their Premier League place very much in the balance, understandably went a little further down that road than Bolton and it was the visitors' more battle-hardened combination that so nearly took the lead after two minutes. Mike Pollitt could only parry Martin Petrov's low shot into the path of Johan Elmander. The Swede was able to tap into an empty goal, but from a marginally offside position.
A defender was almost in worse trouble at the other end when Wigan's Gary Caldwell played a ball only vaguely in the direction of Pollitt, who was forced to save at Elmander's feet.
Bolton had their best chance of the half, when Gary Cahill's pass split a back four that was looking for an offside decision. Klasnic carried on, but shot tamely into Pollitt's body.
Wigan were temporarily reduced to 10 men when the enthusiastic Callum McManaman - apparently a distant relative of Steve - caught a stray boot from Fabrice Muamba in the head. While the Latics were waiting to substitute him, Bolton had three chances, Klasnic completely missing a volley from Paul Robinson's cross, Petrov having a dipping shot tipped over and Elmander hitting the inside of a post with a free-kick.
Bolton still spent the bulk of the game on the attack after half-time, but too much of their execution was sloppy, on what was a difficult surface. They could have been punished for their failure to make their dominance pay when the Latics' sub, Victor Moses, outstripped their defence but fired into the side-netting.
Bolton should still have taken the lead, however, when Lee Chung-yong's cross found Muamba completely unmarked in front of goal, but his control was woeful. Elmander then showed how to do it by dispatching Petrov's centre, but the whistle had already gone.
Bolton at last got it right after 66 minutes, when Mark Davies' run saw the ball finish with Klasnic, who this time hit a low right-footer which Pollitt might nevertheless have saved if he had got down a fraction quicker.
Jordi Gomez hit the bar for Wigan as they tried to get back on terms, but a second goal for Bolton looked a more likely outcome and almost arrived through Petrov in added time.
Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Pollitt; Stam, G Caldwell, S Caldwell, Lopez; McArthur, Gomez, Thomas, Diame, McManaman (Moses, 43); Di Santo. Substitutes not used Kirkland (gk), McCarthy, Watson, Golobart, Mustoe, Redmond.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Bogdan; Ricketts (Alonso, 58), Cahill, Wheater, Robinson; Lee, M Davies, Muamba (Cohen, 90), Petrov; Elmander, Klasnic (K Davies, 84). Substitutes not used Lainton (gk), Taylor, Moreno, Blake.
Booked: Robinson, Davies
Possession: Wigan 42% Bolton 58%
Shots on target: Wigan 1 Bolton 7
Man of the match: Klasnic. Match rating 6/10
Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland). Att 7,515.