St Helens drew a line under a difficult past couple of weeks by getting back to winning ways against Wakefield at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.
Knocked out of the Challenge Cup and starting their Super 8s campaign with a defeat, Saints faced questions as to whether their season was faltering at exactly the wrong moment.
But they moved a step closer to wrapping up the League Leaders’ Shield after a 36-16 victory over a resolute Wakefield on a pleasant evening in West Yorkshire.
Tommy Makinson bagged a brace of tries and Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Luke Douglas and Regan Grace each touched down once, while Danny Richardson booted six goals.
It was not plain sailing for St Helens, who moved 10 points clear of second-placed Wigan, against a side who handed them one of only two defeats during the regular Super League season.
Wakefield had triumphed 24-20 when these sides last met at this venue in April and Trinity realistically needed to win to keep their slim hopes of finishing in the top four alive.
They ran into a side low on confidence after back-to-back defeats, and it was a sluggish start from the visitors as they coughed up a number of errors while in possession early on.
However, they maintained a robust defence of their try-line as Wakefield struggled to create many opportunities.
It needed a moment of magic to open up the game and it came after 26 minutes, the talismanic Ben Barba’s cut out pass finding Makinson, who dived full length to sensationally touch down in the right corner.
It proved the catalyst for a Saints onslaught, with Lomax finishing off a free-flowing move started by a clever offload from Jack Ashworth and Makinson going over again after expertly pipping two Wakefield defenders to Richardson’s high ball before diving over the line.
Three tries in the space of eight minutes left a shell-shocked Wakefield trailing 16-0 at the break, despite competing on even terms with their opponents for the majority of the half.
Their fortunes seemed to improve after half-time as Kyle Wood went over following an infield pass from the marauding Bill Tupou.
Some sustained pressure in the St Helens half was interrupted when Wakefield prop Craig Huby was sent to the sin-bin after a high challenge on Kyle Amor.
The hosts were undaunted, though, and reduced the arrears to just four points when Pauli Pauli battled his way through the St Helens rearguard for his fifth try in his last four games.
Mark Percival set up Fages for a close-range try to give St Helens some breathing room but Tupou capitalised on a stretched defence to bring Wakefield back to within one score at 22-16.
Back came St Helens and Richardson’s grubber caused havoc in the Wakefield in-goal area, allowing Douglas to score, while Grace jinked his way over in the closing stages to add gloss to the scoreline.