After a total of thirty four unsuccessful applications to join the Football League, not to mention a rather controversial but headline-making application in 1972 to join the Scottish League Second Division.
Latics first ever League game took place on Saturday 19 August 1978 at Edgar Street, Hereford in front of a crowd of 5,674, with about three thousand fans travelling from Wigan.
The teams in the historic first game were:
Hereford: Tommy Hughes; Phil Roberts, Chris Price, Stuart Cornes, Peter Spiring, Julian Marshall, William Holmes, Kyle Holmes, David Jones, Wayne Powell, Frank Barton (sub Andrew Feeley) [White shirts, black shorts, black socks]
Latics: John Brown; Tommy Gore, Joe Hinnigan, Neil Davids, Noel Ward, Ian Gillibrand, Frank Corrigan, Jeff Wright, Peter Houghton, John Wilkie, Ian Purdie (sub Alan Crompton) [Blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts, white socks]
The referee was Mr A J Hamill of Wolverhampton
Latics started out the game attacking strongly despite having a five man defence, and after 18 minutes Peter Houghton headed home a Joe Hinnigan free kick, only for the referee to rule it offside. Another free kick from Tommy Gore beat the wall and the United keeper saved at point blank range from John Wilkie. Then Frank Corrigan latched onto a through ball, again to be thwarted by Hughes.
At the other end John Brown had a fine game, but in the 86th minute the home team almost snatched a winner when Jones, unmarked, failed to connect. A long range shot from Jeff Wright caused Hughes to reach in the closing minutes, but the game ended goalless, and Wigan collected their first League point.
Latics had to wait until the fourth game of the season at home to Newport County, before registering their first League goal by Joe Hinnigan after a total of 331 minutes in the League; the game still ended in a 2-3 defeat.
The first victory came in game number six, a 3-0 home win on 13 September against Rochdale, with goals by Wright, Corrigan and Hinnigan. Things improved through the season however, and Latics finished their first season in the League in a very creditable sixth place.