One player does not make a team, especially one assembled as expensively as Warrington, but the loss of Lee Briers 10 minutes into the second half turned this compelling game on its head.
With Briers, the Wolves were leading by 12 points and promising more; without him, they were prey for a Wigan fight-back inspired by Amos Roberts, as the visitors seized the chance to go top of Super League.
Something had to give, and for the first eight minutes that looked likely to be Wigan's defence as Warrington stretched them without Briers being able to find the killer play to break them down. Those calculations changed when Wigan took the lead with a try from Roberts. Andy Coley, captain for the day in his home town, changed the direction of an attack and Roberts – looking so much more interested than he did last season – found the gap and set sail for the corner.
A handling error by George Carmont invited the Wolves to respond. Michael Monaghan burst out of dummy-half and Richie Myler, alert to the opening, was there to score. Myler was winning his battle of the young golden-generation half-backs against Sam Tomkins, and he soon nearly scored again from Adrian Morley's pass.
Stopping him only delayed the inevitable for Wigan, however, the ball flowing fluently to the right wing, where Chris Riley took a difficult pass from Chris Bridge to go over.
Three minutes before the break Myler supplied replacement David Solomona, who was too big and too strong to be stopped so near the try-line.
The Wolves continued to threaten to take the game right away from Wigan after the interval, with Briers denied by the video referee when he chased his own kick. More damaging was the loss of Briers soon after, carried off after twisting awkwardly in the tackle.
Before that had sunk in Wigan and Roberts were on the scoreboard again, the revitalised full-back finding a gap and being credited with the try after video scrutiny. Pat Richards missed the conversion but Roberts struck again two minutes later, getting the slickest of passes to Darrell Goulding for the touchdown. Richards landed the goal from the touchline and Wigan were only two points behind.
They cleared that off when Morley was penalised for a high tackle in front of the posts. That set the stage for someone to do something special, and Sam Tomkins obliged with a chip and chase that led to his brother, Joel, scoring. With seven minutes to play, Louie Anderson ploughed over, but Bridge, kicking in place of Briers, could not land the equalising goal.
"Sometimes it's a matter of centimetres," Tony Smith, the Warrington coach, said. "But if the team competes like that through the season I'll be a very proud coach."
Warrington Mathers; Riley, Bridge, Atkins, King; Briers, Myler; Morley, Monaghan, Carvell, L.Anderson, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes used: Higham, Wood, Grix, Solomona.
Wigan Roberts; Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards; S.Tomkins, Deacon; Fielden, Leuluai, Coley, Hansen, J.Tomkins, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Prescott, Bailey, Mossop, Paleaaesina.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).Reuse content