The game was far more open and creative than recent encounters, although the first half ended goalless despite some promising openings.
But the stage was set for an unlikely hero - Stephen McGinn - to break the deadlock, and he did so in style, curling a beautiful effort into the top corner from 25 yards before the home defence held out.
Gareth Ainsworth made three changes to his side, opting for a more narrow midfield with Stephen McGinn and Marcus Bean coming into the starting line-up, while Joe Jacobson returned to the defence.
City made five changes from the side that 2-0 at Hartlepool in their last outing, and the first chance fell their way when Jayden Stockley headed wide from a drilled corner from the left, although Jacobson looked to have it covered on the post.
On a skiddy surface, neither side were able to enjoy much possession in the early stages, with the ball mostly running on too far and reaching the keepers. However, Wanderers’ best move almost resulted in a goal when Luke O’Nien picked out Michael Harriman in space on the right-hand side of the box, and as the midfielder cut in on his left foot, his low shot was well parried behind by Bobby Olejnik.
Action sprang to the other end and Ryan Allsop was called upon to make a fine stop to deny former Chairboy Joel Grant, before Stockley turned the rebound wide. The home keeper then showed good alertness to race from his goal and play the ‘sweeper’ role to prevent Ollie Watkins from reaching a through-ball into the Wanderers’ territory.
Stockley was looking to be the visitors’ biggest threat and he had a half-chance when the ball reached him on the edge of the box, but he could only fire tamely at Allsop under pressure from Jacobson and Jason McCarthy.
Blues were looking to play some smart football around the City box and Stephen McGinn overlapped neatly to receive Hayes’ pass before the ball was scrambled away for a corner, and as the hosts kept up the pressure, Luke O’Nien fired left-footed into the keeper’s arms.
Back came the Grecians with chances from Ollie Watkins, who fired over, and that man Stockley again, who drilled his chance straight at Allsop who blocked it behind.
Tom McCready’s free-kick was then deflected for a corner by the Wycombe wall, and Troy Brown flicked on another set-piece but saw the ball bounce wide of the far post.
An entertaining half ended goalless with the home side playing the better football but the away team having arguably the better chances.
The second half started with a comical and unfortunate moment when the referee was pushed to the ground by an Exeter player attempting to reach a loose ball just outside the Wycombe box, leaving the official requiring treatment after the Blues’ attempt at a counter-attack broke down.
But the opening goal came on 53 minutes and it was an absolute peach from Stephen McGinn. The Blues regained possession high up the pitch through Paul Hayes and as he laid the ball off 25 yards from goal, McGinn curled it nonchalantly into the top corner, leaving the keeper with no chance.
Exeter looked for an immediate response and only a well-timed clearance from Jason McCarthy denied Stockley a clear shot at goal after Alex Nicholls wriggled in from the touchline, before Marcus Bean also went for the spectacular but his snap-shot volley from the edge of the box bounced into the ground and went wide.
At the other end, Aaron Pierre stuck his head in where it hurt to deflect a dangerous free-kick behind with Troy Brown lurking, before visiting boss Paul Tisdale brought on Lee Holmes in an attempt to unlock the home defence with his dangerous wing play.
Then Ryan Harley came into the fray and almost had a goal within a minute when he stayed onside and looked set to lob the onrushing Ryan Allsop, only for Michael Harriman to arrive from nowhere to stab it out for a corner.
Sam Wood shot just wide from 40 yards after Bobby Olejnik punched a free-kick into his path, before Troy Brown missed a golden chance to level when he sent a free header into the ground and bounced over from a corner from the left.
As the clock moved towards 90, Wycombe almost clinched the points when the ball bounced just wide following a dangerous Jacobson corner, but the lead remained ever so fragile as five minutes of stoppage time were added on.
Another chance presented itself when the ball bounced kindly for Luke O’Nien just inside the area and he drilled the ball with power with his left-foot, seeing it bounce off the keeper and into the path of substitute Matt Bloomfield, but the defender recovered in time to win the goal-kick.
Wanderers survived a long throw into the box with Exeter's last throw of the dice and held on for an important home win - their first of 2016 - to make it three wins from four.
Wycombe: Allsop, Harriman, Jacobson, McCarthy, Pierre, Bean, McGinn (Bloomfield 84), Wood, O’Nien, Hayes, Cowan-Hall.
Unused subs: Richardson, Jombati, Stewart, Sellers, Kreztschmar, Ugwu.
Exeter: Olejnik, McCready, McAllister, Brown, Ribeiro, Nicholl,s Butterfield, Watkins (Holmes 68), Grant (Harley 78), Wheeler (Taylor 82), Stockley.
Unused subs: Hamon, Moore-Taylor, Tillson, Taylor, Oakley.
Referee: Mr D Webb
Attendance: 3,358 (390 from Exeter)
Winning 50/50 Numbers
Blue £1: 03913
Prize Money: £629.00
Orange £2: 14764
Prize Money: £62.00