Had results been different over the past couple of weeks, victory on Sunday may have kept Wigan up and sent Villa down, but instead the hosts went into the final game knowing their eight-year stay in the top flight was over.
Darren Bent, making his first start since January in place of the suspended Christian Benteke, scored his first league goal in eight months less than five minutes in.
But the Latics improved and levelled in the 21st minute with a header from Emmerson Boyce before taking the lead on the stroke of half-time through Nathan Baker's own goal, but Ron Vlaar levelled things again just after the hour mark with a brilliant volley.
Lambert said: "It's been really hard. Especially in that Christmas period when we couldn't get a win. But the big thing was the crowd stayed with it. I think that was a very telling factor.
"Because we were in a transitional period, we knew we had to come through it. I think the club would have kept on sliding. We had to strip it right back and get it going.
"Randy Lerner's been absolutely fantastic with us. He knows the philosophy, that we're trying to build the club. And you see that performance and the performances of the last five months, it's been extremely high."
Lambert also went back onto the pitch after the game accompanied by former Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, who announced his retirement earlier this month because of his fight against leukaemia.
The Villa boss said: "That was nearly a tearjerker, that was tough. To be fair to the Wigan fans, they even gave him a great reception, and that was an emotional moment. You could see how he feels about the crowd and the way he is."
- Sports & Recreation
- Christian Benteke
- Emmerson Boyce