Reigning champions Wigan turned on the style to end the 100 per cent First Utility Super League record of neighbours St Helens in a Good Friday derby of pure quality in front of a sell-out Langtree Park crowd of 17,980.
England second-rower Liam Farrell produced two devastating finishes to score two of the Warriors’ five tries and former St Helens scrum-half Matty Smith kicked six goals and a drop goal in a 33-14 victory, Wigan’s fifth in a row that takes them to within four points of their table-topping rivals.
Wigan were also indebted to a wonderful all-round game from skipper Sean O’Loughlin, while second-rower John Bateman proved a revelation as a stop-gap centre.
Saints, for whom in-form winger Tommy Makinson took his try tally to 11 in just nine games, had snatched last-gasp victories from each of their three previous matches and they quickly found themselves behind once more.
St Helens prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was punished for a fumble in the first carry of the match when O’Loughlin forced his way over from dummy half for the opening try.
However, with Australian Luke Walsh pulling the strings, St Helens were a constant threat and they drew level when outstanding full-back Jonny Lomax broke clear to get Makinson over for the first of his two tries.
Lomax went close to repeating the feat moments later and winger Matty Dawson, a useful replacement for the injured Adam Swift, had a try disallowed for obstruction as Saints clicked into gear.
Wigan’s defence looked distinctly fragile at that stage but there was nothing wrong with their attack and they established an 18-6 lead with two tries in quick succession.
The ever-alert O’Loughlin supported a half-break by Blake Green to get unmarked right winger Dan Sarginson over, and then Farrell took a pass one-handed to produce a clinical finish after left winger Joe Burgess had re-gathered Green’s chip over the Saints defence.
The champions had lost centre Iain Thornley after only six minutes with an upper-body injury and they suffered another blow when forward Eddy Pettybourne limped off after 28 minutes as the game underwent another momentum switch.
Makinson seized Walsh’s cut-out pass to grab his second try, and stand-off Lance Hohaia got centre Jordan Turner over just seconds after he had one effort disallowed by video referee James Child.
It was three tries apiece at that stage but Walsh managed only one conversion to leave his side trailing 18-14 and, in contrast, Smith added a penalty on the stroke of half-time to his three conversions to open up a six-point interval lead.
That was into double figures within three minutes of the re-start when Farrell scored his second try in freakish fashion.
Burgess kicked ahead after finding his path to the line blocked and Farrell followed up to hack the ball on a second time, re-gathering possession when it rebounded fortuitously into his arms off Lomax.
Bateman, switched from the second row following the loss of Thornley, played a key role in the build-up and he displayed tremendous skill four minutes later to release Burgess for a 50-metre try.
Smith, whose goalkicking earlier in the season was a cause for concern, added both conversions to make it six from six and extend his side’s lead to 32-14.
The scrum-half was off target for the first time with a long-range penalty attempt but finally put the game beyond the reach of his old club after 67 minutes with a drop goal.