After being jeered from the pitch at half-time, Steve Bruce's side showed the type of spirit they will need to sustain if they are going to turn around their winless run.
Wigan started by far the brighter side and Paul Sharner missed a great chance to take an early lead before Mohamed Diame robbed Lork Cana and blasted a stunning drive past Craig Gordon.
Sunderland were a complete shambles in the first half with Cana and Lee Cattermole in particular lacking any confidence on the ball.
But they were a different prospect after the restart.
Bent had a goal disallowed for offside, it was a very tight call and Bruce left the fourth official in doubt which way he thought it should have gone. A minute later Wigan's James McCarthy should have put the visitors two ahead but lacked the composure to take the ball around Gordon who spooned a tame effort away for a corner.
The goalmouth action was incessant. Michael Turner almost nodded home a close range header against his former club before Charles N'Zogbia spurned a chance after being put through by the impressive Hugo Rodallega.
But Sunderland's improved showing was rewarded when good work by debutant Alan Hutton teed up Jordan Henderson who sent in a hanging cross that Jones headed down past Chris Kirkland. The Sunderland supporters who'd booed their team off at the break were now roaring the players forward.
Bent steered an effort wide as Sunderland finally enjoyed a spell of dominance.
Henderson was stretchered off after sustaining what appeared to be a knee injury and Bolo Zenden took his place on the right flank. Bent had another great chance to take all three points but his goalbound effort rebounded of his team-mate Jones lying prone in the Wigan goalmouth.
Neither side could find a way through despite the dreadfully fussy referee Staurt Attwell adding seven minutes of time.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon;Hutton,Turner,Kilgallon,McCartney;Henderson(Zenden, 67);Cana,Cattermole,Reid (86 Benjani),Jones,Bent
Subs (not used):Fulop (gk),Bardsley,Da Silva,Malbranque,Campbell.
Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Kirkland;Boyce,Caldwell,Sharner(Moreno 73),Brambell,Figueroa;Rodallega (Moses 81),Thomas,McCarthy,N'Zogbia;Diame