Match ends, Middlesbrough 1, Wigan Athletic 0.
Patrick Bamford's 17th goal of the season sent Middlesbrough back to the top of the Championship table and left Wigan stuck in relegation trouble.
On-loan Chelsea striker Bamford, 21, slotted home a deflected effort after 20 minutes as Boro won for the ninth time in 10 home games.
Wigan had won their last four away games but after that run was ended are still five points from safety.
Bournemouth and Watford both drew later to leave Boro top by a point.
Boro lost to Bournemouth in their last game but got their promotion push back on course with a victory that was hardly impressive but was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Aitor Karanka's side dominated for long spells without giving themselves the cushion of a second goal.
The one that mattered came after the impressive Albert Adomah broke away and found Jelle Vossen, who teed up Bamford for the striker to shoot into the bottom corner from 22 yards with the help of a deflection off Harry Maguire.
Bamford, who had withdrawn from the England under-21 squad that beat Germany 3-2 at the Riverside Stadium last Monday night, was involved in most of Boro's best attacking moments and forced Ali Al Habsi into a save as he looked to curl in a second goal.
Midfielder Adam Clayton also threatened with a low shot which was deflected just wide before half-time.
Wigan had drawn 1-1 with Boro in their first game under Malky Malkay last November but a record of no home wins under the former Watford and Cardiff manager has meant that their survival hopes have had to be kept alive away from the DW Stadium.
However, there was little fight from them in the first half before the introduction of Marc-Antoine Fortune at the start of the second helped spark an improvement.
Fortune was denied by Dimi Konstantopoulos from Wigan's first attempt on target after 62 minutes.
Jermaine Pennant and James McClean also sliced efforts wide for the Latics as the best defence in the division, marshalled by ex-England international Jonathan Woodgate, kept another clean sheet.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka:
"I made a mistake a few months ago when I thought it was a race between Derby, Bournemouth and us.
"Now you look at the table and Derby will be outside the play-offs if they lose their game tonight.
"That means this league is very difficult. We are in a good position but we have to keep going.
"We knew this was going to be a very difficult game because Wigan are playing every game as if it's a cup final.
"We knew we would have to suffer to get the points but the main thing is we have one game less to go to the end and we have another three points."
Wigan manager Malky Mackay:
"I am really disappointed for the players. I thought they were terrific and went toe to toe with a Middlesbrough side that's on the verge of being promoted.
"In the second half we had two or three good chances and overall we deserved something.
"In the second half we showed real courage. If we keep playing like that I can't ask for any more. I can ask for a bit more quality around the goal but that's been a problem from the start of the season."
- 6GibsonBooked at 61mins
- 8ClaytonBooked at 90mins
- 23BamfordSubstituted forKikeat 88'minutes
- 21VossenSubstituted forTomlinat 67'minutesBooked at 87mins
- 26Al Habsi
- 4MaguireBooked at 24mins
- 15PennantSubstituted forKvistat 65'minutes
- 24PerchBooked at 41mins
- 27MurphySubstituted forFortunéat 45'minutes
- 21ClarkeSubstituted forWaghornat 61'minutesBooked at 77mins
- 11McCleanBooked at 57mins
- Stuart Attwell
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 1, Wigan Athletic 0.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Kim Bo-Kyung.
Attempt blocked. Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by George Friend.
Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough).
Kim Bo-Kyung (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough).
Ali Al Habsi (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Kike replaces Patrick Bamford.
Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough).
Harry Maguire (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gaëtan Bong (Wigan Athletic).
Foul by Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough).
Jason Pearce (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by James McClean (Wigan Athletic).
Adam Reach (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the left wing.