The extra guile of Gavin Clinch was just enough to bring Salford a victory that ensures their survival in Super League, while Widnes's future remains a little more insecure.
The scores were level with nine minutes to go when the Australian scrum-half looked hemmed in on the touchline but still managed to get his pass away for Andy Kirk to stretch over the line for the try.
After Chris Charles had added the goal, Clinch put over a drop-goal and although Widnes scored late through Daniel Frame, Salford were home. That puts them two points ahead of Widnes, three points in front of London despite their unlikely draw with Leeds and six clear of Castleford, despite their victory over Huddersfield.
One or more of those teams might overtake them, but surely all three will not. "It's the worst we've played in seven or eight weeks, but it was a massive result for us the way that the other results have gone,'' said the Salford coach, Karl Harrison. "We're a step closer to achieving our goal for the season.''
Salford held a slender advantage at the break, thanks to the only try of the half. It came after 14 minutes, when they moved the ball crisply across field and Charles's lofted pass exploited the absence of Willie Peters, who was on the floor having treatment, to give Joel Caine the necessary room on the outside. Charles converted from the touchline.
The first 40 minutes were more notable for conflict than for constructive rugby. Widnes had taken an early lead with a Jules O'Neill penalty and got another after a major conflagration just before the half hour. Gareth Haggerty began it with a high tackle and he was sin-binned along with two Widnes players, Shane Millard and Simon Finnigan, who retaliated.
After O'Neill's second goal, Widnes managed to survive their one-man disadvantage for 10 minutes, which also saw a second incident, in which Sean Rutgereson was injured and helped from the field, placed on report by the over-worked referee, Ronnie Laughton.
Right at the start of the second half, Haggerty's knock-on gave Widnes an attacking position which they exploited through Jules O'Neill's pass to send Stephen Myler rolling over the line to give them the lead.
Charles' penalty levelled it and the stage was set for a dramatic finale - one which, along with yesterday's other results, leaves Widnes still in danger.
Their caretaker coach, Stuart Spruce, revealed afterwards that he has applied for the permanent post and that he hopes to be coaching them in Super League next season - but not, he added, rather pointedly, with all the current players to choose from.
Widnes: P Atcheson; C Weston, D Bird, A Hughes, C Giles; Jules O'Neill, W Peters; A Hobson, S Millard, Julian O'Neill, A Hay, S McCurrie, S Finnigan. Substitutes used: S Myler, D Mills, T Wozniak, D Frame
Salford: J Flowers; A Kirk, T Stewart, K McGuinness, J Caine; C Beverley, G Clinch; P Highton, M Alker, N Baynes, A Coley, M Shipway, C Charles. Substitutes used: S Rutgerson, K Fitzpatrick, T Jonkers, G Haggerty.
Referee: R Laughton (Barnsley)