Skipper Fabricio Coloccini struck deep into injury time to deny Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia the headlines as Newcastle only just avoided a third successive Barclays Premier League defeat.
The Argentinian headed home in the fourth minute of stoppage time to snatch a 2-2 draw after Magpies old boy N'Zogbia had silenced the St James' Park boo boys.
The 24-year-old Frenchman put the visitors in front with a 22nd-minute header and then added a second with a superb left-foot rocket to answer the cat-calls from fans still bristling at the manner of his departure from the club.
N'Zogbia, who was once mistakenly referred to as "Charles Insomnia" by former Magpies boss Joe Kinnear, tormented right-back James Perch throughout, and with a little more composure, he could have killed the game off long before the final whistle.
But substitute Shola Ameobi's 72nd-minute header gave the Magpies hope as a crowd of 44,415 finally had something to shout about, and Coloccini completed the job in the nick of time.
The game started with boos for owner Mike Ashley over his decision to sell the naming rights to the stadium, and N'Zogbia as a result of his extended campaign of agitation for a move away from the club, which finally paid off in February last year.
But the boos on the half-time whistle were all for the club the Frenchman had left behind as the Magpies capitulated all too easily in the face of a not particularly special performance by the visitors.
Newcastle were simply awful for all but a few minutes of the opening period.
They lacked ideas in midfield, where Wigan boss Roberto Martinez had ordered his players to close down space, and toothless in attack on the rare occasions when striker Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands, preferred to Ameobi and Kevin Nolan, saw anything of the ball.
But more alarmingly, they were horribly porous at the back as right-back Perch's education in top-flight football took an ugly turn up an ever steeper hill.
His main job was to try to keep N'Zogbia quiet with a helping hand from Danny Guthrie, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury.
But the former Magpie gave him a torrid time throughout and capped his afternoon with a quick-fire double which put the Latics in the driving seat with barely a quarter of the game gone.
There was an element of good fortune about N'Zogbia's first goal when Franco di Santo's cross looped up off Jose Enrique and dropped invitingly for the winger to head across goalkeeper Tim Krul and into the bottom corner.
However, his second less a minute later oozed class as he brought down Di Santo's cross on his chest before smashing a shot past Krul from a tight angle.
Newcastle were laboured in their attempts to get back into the game, although they came close twice within seconds as clock ticked past the 40-minute mark.
First Maynor Figueroa had to head over his own crossbar after Carroll had turned Guthrie's free-kick across goal towards Lovenkrands, and then Emmerson Boyce cleared the striker's header off the line from the resulting corner.
It could have been even worse for the Magpies had N'Zogbia opted to cross early to the unmarked Di Santo in injury time, and the home manager headed for the dressing room with chants of "Hughton, sort it out" ringing in his ears with his side starring down the barrel of a third successive home defeat.
What Hughton needed was a swift response, but there was little sign of it in the opening minutes of the second half as his side continued to squander possession and make little of it when they had it.
The Magpies pinned the visitors back inside their own half, but were unable to find anything like the quality of final ball they needed to break Wigan down, although Carroll headed wide from Enrique's looping 56th-minute ball in.
Lovenkrands found himself in a promising position on the hour as Perch prepared to cross, but although the Dane controlled well, Newcastle old boy Steve Caldwell intervened before he could shoot.
Guthrie drilled a 65th-minute free-kick harmlessly over the bar with little sign of the fightback the Magpies so desperately required.
However, Ameobi, a 60th-minute replacement for Lovenkrands, gave his side hope with 18 minutes gone when he powered home a header from Jonas Gutierrez's cross to spark a belated onslaught.
Carroll headed just wide seconds later, but substitute Hugo Rodallega perhaps should have made sure five minutes from time after being played in by N'Zogbia.
His side were made to pay at the death when Carroll flicked on Gutierrez's cross and Coloccini headed home from close range to cap a spirited comeback.
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