Warrington went back into the top three in the Super League table but were pushed all the way by an enterprising Salford. Despite looking like a team still searching for rhythm, the Wolves seemed home and dry when they led by 14 points with seven minutes to play, but two late Salford tries ensured a nervy finish.
The Warrington coach, Tony Smith, denied ever being worried for his below-strength team. "They hung in there and it was good experience for them," he said. With eight regulars missing, five of them deliberately rested, Warrington's team-sheet looked vulnerable going into the match.
They did not seem too bad when they took the lead after three minutes, Rhys Williams taking a neat pass from Ryan Atkins, but still having plenty to do before touching down in the corner.
Salford suffered another blow when they lost their hooker, Wayne Godwin, with a broken arm, but they were still the more inventive and dangerous side for the rest of the first half. Much of that was due to the incisive play of their centres, starting with Ashley Gibson's 70-metre interception try when he picked off Gareth O'Brien's pass.
Gibson also claimed the City Reds' second, after Joel Moon had gone close to putting Jodie Broughton over on the opposite wing. When the ball came back across the field, Gibson exploited the overlap and Salford were deservedly ahead.
They would have been even better placed if Luke Patten had not been pulled back en route to the try-line for a marginal forward pass, but the Wolves got their noses in front by the interval, when Atkins and Williams combined again from a turnover of possession near the Salford line.
The visitors should have regained the lead from Moon's break, but Broughton allowed himself to be forced into touch. Instead, Ben Currie got what seemed the crucial score with his first senior try. "He's a terrific young player," said Smith, who was equally impressed with the 17-year-old second-rower's 39 tackles in a battling performance.
When Garreth Carvell got over for a hotly-disputed try that saw Patten sin-binned for dissent, it seemed all over for the visitors, but those late tries from Daniel Holdsworth and Danny Williams kept them in the hunt. That left their coach, Phil Veivers, all the more frustrated. "We played some enterprising stuff, but there was a lack of consistency on some decisions," he said.
Warrington: Riley; R Williams, Blythe, Atkins, Monaghan; Grix, O'Brien; Cooper, Dwyer, Carvell, Waterhouse, Currie, Harrison. Substitutes used: Higham, Wood, Hill, McCarthy.
Salford: Patten; Broughton, Moon, Gibson, D Williams; Holdsworth, Smith; Jewitt, Godwin, Sidlow, Ashurst, Adamson, Wild.
Substitutes used: Howarth, Neal, James, Boyle.
Referee: B Thaler (Castleford).