Latics were hit by a late blow in the crucial match at the bottom of the Sky Bet Championship with relegation rivals Bristol City.
In a tight contest, Latics threatened in the first half especially, but could not find a way past City keeper Frank Fielding, and when they did David Perkins' superb shot skimmed the crossbar rather than tuck into the goal.
The game looked as if it was heading for a draw when defender Aden Flint poked home from close range at a corner and Latics were forced to rue what could have been. There were suggestions of an offside and debate as to whether it should have been a corner in the first place, but the goal stood.
There was the single change for Latics, Perkins returning in place of the injured Max Power. Shaun MacDonald did manage a place on the bench after being stretchered off a week ago at Blackburn while Craig Morgan was in a squad for the first time in nine games. City, for their part, made four changes, including the return of top scorer Tammy Abraham after injury.
The sides were level at the break, but that was largely down to City keeper Fielding.
Latics could have opened the scoring after 23 minutes when Michael Jacobs swung in a corner from the left, it wasn’t cleared and Jake Buxton fed the ball to Perkins, whose curling effort from the edge of the box beat Fielding but agonisingly skimmed the top of his crossbar.
Then in the 29th minute, a superb through ball from Jacobs sent Omar Bogle scampering free, he teed up a shot from a tight angle which Fieding parried out for a corner at his near post with a sharp save. Fielding was called upon again four minutes later when Callum Connolly crossed high to the far post from the right side and Gabriel Obertan headed it backwards at goal, his effort superbly palmed away.
City had only really threatened when Matty Taylor headed over on 16 minutes from a David Cotterill cross, but their best effort came four minutes before the break, Lee Tomlin freeing Abraham in the box, Matt Gilks doing really well to race off his line and block his angled drive.
Both sides came out of the blocks quickly for the second half. Tomlin shot over within seconds of the restart but then Latics immediately broke and Fielding had to be down sharply to snub out Stephen Warnock’s low cross.
Flint met Cotterill’s corner after 53 minutes with a powerful header but it was a yard wide of Gilks’ right hand post.
Then Latics immediately threatened again, this time Obertan jinxed into the box and tried to thread a delightful ball with the outside of his foot to Bogle but Flint’s long legs intercepted the pass at the last second.
Bogle forced a good save from Fielding on 62 minutes with a near post, then Jamie Hanson put in a great tackle to deny substitute Aaron Wilbraham – it was turning into a real end to end match.
James Weir replaced Obertan on 68 minutes, then Mikael Mandron came on for Alex Gilbey as Latics looked to close out on the front foot but instead it was the visitors who enjoyed their best spell, orchestrated mostly by Tomlin.
City had a great chance on 80 minutes, substitute Josh Brownhill drilling a low shot through a crowded area, but wide, then fellow substitute Callum O’Dowda was denied by Gilks who dived bravely as Abraham lurked.
The goal looked as if it had been coming and from Tomlin’s corner, Latics couldn’t clear the ball and Flint poked home from close range.
Fielding did punch the ball away from a Jacobs free-kick into the box but Latics were not able to mount a response.