The good news for Wolverhampton Wanderers is that their soporific run of five 1-1 draws is over.
The bad news is that it ended with a defeat that leaves them far closer to the relegation places than sixth spot.
Nathan Ellington exposed the woeful set-piece defending that should be Glenn Hoddle's top priority and re-established breathing space between second-placed Wigan Athletic and the chasing pack.
It took only 17 minutes for the hosts to take the lead when Jody Craddock's limp challenge allowed Ellington to climb and head home Jimmy Bullard's left-wing corner.
The striker's 16th goal of the season was soon followed by his 17th, although Kenny Miller forced John Filan into a comfortable save in between with a volley from Lee Naylor's pass.
This time, from Bullard's corner on the right, Keith Andrews was adjudged to have been the perpetrator of an untidy tangle of arms with Lee McCulloch. Andrews was sufficiently riled to be booked for protesting before Ellington nonchalantly tucked away Wigan's fifth penalty in six league games against Wolves.
Strangely, the visitors were still comfortably ahead on goal attempts by the interval, Miller having a left-foot lob well tipped over by Filan, who then saw the Scot cleverly control Naylor's centre before volleying wide on the turn.
Hoddle, having said only a victory would do after Wolves' mediocre festive results, sent on Paul Ince at half time - his former England warhorse's first action in two months.
Bullard remained the best midfielder on view, though, and teed up David Graham for a low shot that deflected off Joleon Lescott and forced Michael Oakes into his first save of the night. A Wolves double substitution followed just after the hour but a Seol Ki-Hyeon free-kick that curled over from an angle was their only semblance of hope and Mike Flynn should have made it three with a header from Jason Roberts' superb cross.
Wigan (4-4-2): Filan; Eaden (Wright, 83), Jackson, Thome, Baines; Graham (Teale, 62), Bullard, Whalley, McCulloch; Roberts, Ellington (Flynn, 76). Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Mahon.
Wolves (4-4-2): Oakes; Clyde, Craddock, Lescott, Naylor; Olofinjana, Andrews (Ince, h-t), Kennedy (Cameron, 61), Seol; Cort, Miller (Clarke, 63). Substitutes not used: Murray (gk), Newton.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
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