The hosts started superbly and were ahead in the fourth minute when Ronnie Stam's strike deflected off David Vaughan to leave Simon Mignolet helpless.
Sunderland should have been level just moments later but Alfred N'Diaye headed over from close range after finding himself free inside the Wigan box.
© PA Photos
The visitors continued to push for an equaliser and John O'Shea was the next player to miss the target with a free header following a Sebastian Larsson free kick.
Another Larsson free kick caused a moment of controversy when his cross struck the arm of James McCarthy and despite the protests a penalty was awarded to the Black Cats.
Craig Gardner stepped up from 12 yards to smash the ball into the bottom corner to level the scores.
Sunderland moved into the lead minutes later when Steven Fletcher drilled the ball into the back of the net at the second time of asking following a superb save by Ali Al-Habsi.
Fletcher doubled his tally before the break to extend Sunderland's lead by rifling the ball into the top corner following a smart pass from Adam Johnson.