Saints gained revenge for their Good Friday mauling with a derby win at the home of the champions to open up a four-point gap at the top of the First Utility Super League.
Winger Tom Makinson, Super League’s leading tryscorer, touched down twice and evergreen skipper Paul Wellens scored his sixth try in his last five matches as Saints overcame the loss of influential scrum-half Luke Walsh to grind out a 16-8 victory in front of a 20,224 crowd at the DW Stadium.
Walsh went off after 21 minutes with a back strain but St Helens proved they are far from a one-man team as condemned the below-strength reigning champions to a second consecutive defeat and claim the spoils from a 233rd league derby packed with crunching tackles.
With both sides scoring three tries, it came down in the end to the goalkicking, with Saints’ third-choice marksman Mark Percival succeeding with two of his three attempts while Wigan’s Matty Smith failed with all his three.
Wigan, who gave a debut to teenage half-back Jamie Doran in the absence of seven first-choice players through injury and suspension, began in lively fashion, with full-back Matty Bowen producing a couple of threatening runs from deep which had the visitors back-pedalling.
They took the lead on eight minutes when left winger Joe Burgess won the race to Sam Powell’s perfectly-weighted kick to the corner to claim his 16th try of the season.
Smith was unable to convert and Saints drew level midway through the first half when second rower Mark Flanagan came up with a superb one-handed pass out of a two-man tackle to get Makinson over for his 16th Super League try of the campaign to pull clear of the pack.
With regular marksman Walsh limping from the field, Makinson attempted to convert his own try but was off target to leave the scores tied.
Jon Wilkin moved into the halves following Walsh’s exit and Saints continued to give as good as they received for the rest of the score-less first half.
Wigan’s best chance came when Burgess as bundled into touch just short of the corner while Saints spurned the opportunity to kick a penalty, running the ball instead from in front of the posts only to fail to see out their next set.
With Lance Hohaia coming more into the game in the absence of Walsh, Saints gradually got on top and they went in front four minutes into the second half when Burgess failed to claim Wilkin’s high kick and Wellens was on hand to gather the loose ball and go past Dan Sarginson to touch down.
Mark Percival was this time wide with the conversion but Saints were good value for their 8-4 lead.
Wigan almost conceded again when the previously immaculate Bowen made a hash of collecting Hohaia’s grubber kick near his own line but they survived and struck against the run of play to draw level.
Bowen was the creator with a cut-out pass which gave winger Josh Charnley the space to cross for his side’s second try.
It was too far out for Smith to convert and Saints edged back in front on 63 minutes when Percival was successful with a penalty awarded for a high tackle.
The pivotal moment came two minutes later when an offload in midfield from Samoan heavyweight Mose Masoe created space on Wigan’s left and Makinson took Jordan Turner’s pass to go past Sarginson and Bowen for his second try.
Percival’s touchline conversion put two scores between the teams and that proved crucial when Charnley went over for his second try three minutes from the end.