WIGAN claimed the first bragging rights of the season after a brutal derby at a sell-out DW Stadium.
The game was in the balance until the final 10 minutes, when winger Joe Burgess pounced for a decisive try to secure Warriors’ sixth Good Friday triumph in succession.
Burgess chased George Williams’ short kick, and managed to ground the ball before he tumbled over the deadball line.
His acrobatic finish provided a dramatic finish to a ferocious, physical duel between the two Super League heavyweights.
With conditions damp and a heavy pitch, this was always destined to be a war of attrition in the middle, and that certainly proved the case.
But what the contest lacked in free-flowing passages, the ferocity of the challenges proved generous compensation.
The tight exchanges were frequently punctuated with bone-shuddering collisions, with Larne Patrick, Michael McIlorum and Liam Farrell among those to impress for Wigan.
The visitors were well-served by workaholic Luke Thompson, while Samoan wrecking-ball Mose Masoe injected some drive from the bench in a short, first-half spell.
Wigan named an unchanged starting line-up but Saints were missing Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin and Travis Burns from the squad which lost 24-22 at Hull KR the previous week.
After a slick pre-match bill, the players emerged to pyrotechnics and a wall of noise. And they soon provided fireworks on the pitch, with Wigan claiming the first try in just 52 seconds. Jordan Turner’s clearing kick ricocheted off Lee Mossop’s head, and the alert Dom Manfredi pounced, shrugging off Lance Hohaia on the way to the line. Matty Smith’s goal made it 6-0.
A St Helens breakaway was snuffed out by desperate efforts by Manfredi and John Bateman. Seconds later, Anthony Gelling - who arrived at the game on a BMX bike - countered to get the pulses racing.
Masoe’s powerful surges helped Saints get a foothold in the contest, and in the 16th minute Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook powered over from short-range.
There was no other score in the opening half, but plenty of action. Wigan lost their way for a spell, and when Ryan Hampshire slipped as he retrieved Hohaia’s kick and slid over the touchline, Saints had a golden chance to take the lead for the first time.
But Farrell’s tackle on Hohaia saved the day and typified the tone of the first derby since last October’s Grand Final.
Saints lost Paul Wellens early in the seocnd-half, and with Joe Greenwood earlier limping out the action, it left Keiron Cunningham with just two fit substitutes for the second-half.
And with the pitch sapping players of a lot of their energy,and some of their pace, the sides armwrestled their way to the hour-mark with few tryscoring chances - until Burgess struck.
Wigan: Hampshire; Manfredi, Gelling, Sarginson, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Clubb, McIlorum, Mossop, J Tomkins, Farrell, Bateman. Subs: Tautai, Patrick, L Tomkins, Sutton.
St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Dawson, Jones, Swift; Turner, Hohaia; Amor, Roby, Walmsley, Greenwood, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Thompson. Subs: Masoe, Richards, Flanagan, Savelio.
Referee: Phil Bentham