SUPER-SUB Carlos Vela etched his name in Black Country derby folklore by volleying a last-gasp equaliser - the very least the Baggies deserved.
The on-loan Arsenal forward pounced in the second minute of stoppage time to deny Wolves their first Hawthorns win for 14 seasons.
Jamie O'Hara's stunning 40th-minute strike appeared to have sentenced Roy Hodgson to a somewhat harsh defeat in his first game in charge.
Albion were on top for long spells of this first-ever Black Country derby in the Barclays Premier League and created by far the better chances.
But their efforts appeared to be all in vain - until Vela struck his first Baggies goal.
The result has moved Albion a point clear of the drop-zone and, crucially, has kept them three points ahead of bottom-placed Wolves
The stakes couldn't have been higher for this first top-flight Black Country derby in almost 27 years.
With 17th entertaining 20th, not only was local pride at stake but also Premier League survival.
Hodgson made just one enforced change for his first game in charge. Gabriel Tamas came in for the injured Youssouf Mulumbu and partnered Jonas Olsson in central defence, with Paul Scharner pushed into central midfield.
With Scott Carson missing out altogether through illness. 40-year-old Dean Kiely was named on the bench as back up to Boaz Myhill.
Mick McCarthy also made one change, with Kevin Foley coming in for Adam Hammill.
With The Hawthorns packed to the rafters, there was a crackling atmosphere inside the famous old ground for the 157th Black Country derby.
It was Wolves, attacking the Smethwick End, who started on the front foot when O'Hara drove purposely forward before seeing his shot blocked in the box by Olsson.
Albion soon created a chance of their own when Wayne Hennessey failed to gather Nicky Shorey's deep cross. Peter Odemwingie pounced on the loose ball but, with his back to goal, hooked wide of the empty net.
Odemwingie was looking lively and came within a whisker of getting on the end of Tamas' throughball, but the onrushing Hennessey beat him to it and cleared.
On 14, Wolves winger Matt Jarvis managed to beat Gonzalo Jara down the left and squeeze in a cross, only for the unmarked O'Hara to head harmlessly wide from 15 yards.
No quarter was being given in this tightly contested fixture and it was Albion's turn to threaten on 21 when Olsson towered above Christophe Berra to head Chris Brunt's corner goalwards, but Hennessey was equal to it.
Moments later, Marc-Antoine Fortune tried his luck from 20 yards, only for his effort to fly well wide.
The Baggies were getting some joy from corners and Brunt's flag-kick on 25 fell perfectly for Odemwingie, whose stooping header from 12 yards dribbled wide.
Another Brunt corner, another effort at goal. This time it was Tamas who won the aerial battle and he planted a header just wide of the right-hand post.
Albion were getting on top and Fortune cut in from the left and saw a goalbound effort blocked in the box by Richard Stearman.
Shorey swung the loose ball back into the box and Scharner was unlucky to see his diving header finger-tipped wide by Hennessey at full stretch.
Wolves were struggling to get out of their own half as the game passed the half-hour mark but Odemwingie failed to trouble Hennessey's goal with a 25-yard drive.
Yet it was Wanderers who drew first blood with their first shot on target on 40.
Nenad Milijas fooled everyone by playing a free-kick square to O'Hara who beat Myhill all ends up with a stunning first-time 20-yard effort.
After a sloppy passage of play, Wolves threatened again when no-one closed down Ronald Zubar, but the right-back was well off target from 25 yards.
That was the final action of a half Albion had enjoyed the better of, only for one moment of magic to put them a goal behind.
The second half started in scrappy fashion - but Wolves should have made it 2-0 on 50.
Tamas' poor back header put Jarvis clear but with only Myhill to beat, the wideman screwed his shot wide of the far post from 15 yards.
But Albion suddenly burst into life in the 55th minute when Odemwingie dispossessed Karl Henry and charged forward before feeding Fortune. The former Celtic man teased his way past Stearman before seeing his acute drive pushed into the side-netting by Hennessey.
Moments later, Hennessey flapped at Brunt's deep cross and the ball fell for Odemwingie, whose goalbound shot on the turn was blocked by George Elokobi.
Albion really had the bit between their teeth now and Fortune's cross broke neatly for Scharner 15 yards out, only for the Austrian to fire just over.
Odemwingie then tried his luck from distance but his effort flew straight at Hennessey.
On 63, a great Baggies chance went begging when Odemwingie's header set up Fortune, but the striker inexplicably decided against pulling the trigger from six yards and Wolves cleared.
It was all Albion and the hosts were denied a certain goal when Olsson's header from Brunt's corner was headed off the line by Jarvis.
Moments later, Hennessey gathered Tamas' long-range missile at the second attempt before Odemwingie could pounce.
Wolves had another escape on 78 when sub Vela's volley deflected off Zubar and was pushed away by Hennessey.
Wanderers had offered little threat all game, with Myhill something of a passenger, and the visitors did not threaten again until the 83rd minute when Tamas slid in to beat sub Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to Doyle's low cross and saw the ball slide inches past the left-hand post.
Even though it did not look like being Albion's day, to their immense credit, they kept plugging away.
And their never-say-die spirit was rewarded in dramatic fashion in the second minute of stoppage time.
Sub James Morrison's low drive from just outside the box proved too hot for Hennessey to hold and Vela volleyed the loose ball into the empty net - to spark scenes of delirium in the home sections.
ALBION (4-4-2): Myhill; Jara (Reid 85), Tamas, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt, Scharner, Dorrans (Vela 72), Thomas (Morrison 61); Fortune, Odemwingie. Subs not used: Kiely (gk), Cox, Tchoyi, Ibanez.
WOLVES (4-5-1): Hennessey; Zubar, Berra, Stearman, Elokobi; Foley (Ward 85), Milijas (Ebanks-Blake 68), Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis (Craddock 90+1); Doyle. Subs not used: Hahnemann (gk), Fletcher, Jones, Hammill.
GOALS: ALBION - Vela (90+2). WOLVES - O'Hara (40).
REFEREE: M Dean (Wirral).
ALBION STARMAN: Jonas Olsson.
PIC: DERBY HERO...Vela equalises in stoppage time
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