If only Steve Bruce's team had been as assiduous about retaining possession as Stuart Attwell proved when it came to enforcing the letter of the law, Sunderland would surely not have extended their winless Premier League run to 11 games.
On an afternoon most notable for the nine bookings earnestly collected by a sometimes pedantic young referee, Bruce looked thoroughly dismayed to see his slapdash side come up short against a former club.
"We were edgy but we've got to be able to handle those nerves," the Sunderland manager said. "We've lost confidence, we've stopped doing basics. I ain't enjoying this, that's for sure, we're on a really horrible run and we have to try and arrest it."
While happy enough to earn another point in his own relegation battle, Roberto Martínez, Bruce's successor at Wigan, was frustrated by the two chances spurned by James McCarthy and Charles N'Zogbia when they were one on one with Craig Gordon, Sunderland's goalkeeper.
Wigan played the better passing football with an often overly direct Sunderland persistently troubled by N'Zogbia's pacy invention down the right. The 15th different Wearside back-four combination Bruce has fielded this season did not always appear entirely cohesive and Martínez's men were ahead shortly after Matthew Kilgallon's underhit pass failed to reach Lorik Cana.
Into the resultant gap nipped Mohamed Diamé. Seizing possession, he advanced into the area before unleashing a rising right-foot shot which defied Gordon's reach as it arced towards the top corner. "I'm sure Mohamed was as surprised as everyone else when he struck the ball like that, I've never seen him do it before," Martínez said.
Travelling Wigan fans serenaded their former manager with chants of "Brucey's getting sacked in the morning", but such taunts temporarily caught in their throats as a deflected Kenwyne Jones shot struck a post. It was a rare goal attempt on the part of a Sunderland team who looked incapable of either forcing any sort of tempo or stringing more than a couple of passes together. Up in the directors' box Ellis Short, the club's billionaire owner, sat taut faced.
True, Chris Kirkland performed wonders to tip Lee Cattermole's long-range shot over the bar but, with half-time beckoning, it was the goalkeeper's first significant intervention. Things were so depressing for those of a red and white persuasion that one disappointed patron bellowed: "You should be sacked Bruce, you spent £30m in the summer and we're even worse than last season."
Things improved a bit after the break. Darren Bent even had the ball in the back of the net but the striker appeared a good yard offside when Jones's pass released him and there was no real debate about his "goal" being disallowed.
Or any argument that Michael Turner should have headed Jordan Henderson's cross beyond Kirkland rather than wastefully wide. Undeterred, Henderson – later carried off with a serious ankle injury – simply unleashed another fine centre and this time Jones showed precisely how it should be done, thumping his header home. Unusually, the Trinidad striker – who has had his differences with Bruce – did not celebrate. All is far from well on Wearside.
Jones' sympathy for crocked Jordan.
Goalscorer Kenwyne Jones has paid tribute to midfielder Jordan Henderson after the midfielder suffered what looked to be a serious ankle injury.
Henderson, 19, was stretchered off after landing awkwardly just minutes after teeing up Jones for his seventh goal of the season.
The big Trinidadian striker headed in a lovely centre from the youngster, who looks set for at least several weeks on the sidelines.
"Of course, my sympathies are with him," Jones said. "You don't want to see any player get injured and he has done very well for us.
"Everyone wishes him a speedy recovery."
Meanwhile Jones concurred with boss Steve Bruce by describing the team's first-half display as "nervy".
After falling behind to Momo Diame's scorching opener, Sunderland responded well in the second period and capped a useful spell of pressure when Jones converted from close range.
The striker saw another effort denied in a goalmouth scramble and in the end he was frustrated not to have taken maximum points.
"We are very disappointed not to have taken three points today, which is what we came out looking for.
"I think we were nervy in the first half but we stepped it up in the second and it's a point in the end."
On his goal, Jones added: "We had a good run of play coming down the right and Jordan put in a beautiful cross. I had no choice but to finish it.
"We were stronger and more composed in the second half - we had chances but we couldn't put them away for the victory."