Wigan found some relief from their desperate form in Super League by progressing in the Challenge Cup, but this was a tie that was literally thrown away by Wakefield yesterday.
Leading 22-6 as the interval approached, they had absorbed what should have been Wigan's last attack of the half when Colum Halpenny hurled the ball over the dead-ball line to delay the restart.
It was the sort of behaviour that is rarely punished, but Karl Kirkpatrick was within his rights to award a penalty and Wigan seized a crucial try from Bryan Fletcher's pass.
"That decision was the turning point of the game," said the Wakefield coach, Tony Smith, who laid the blame at the door of the player. "I told him about it at half-time.'' Halpenny's indiscretion had cost his side all their momentum.
Within four minutes of the restart Wigan, who could not string two passes together in the first half, were level. Dennis Moran provided the pass to send Sean O'Loughlin over and then scored a brilliant individual try by chasing his own angled kick.
Wakefield had a fleeting chance to regain the lead but Jamie Rooney missed with a drop goal attempt, and Wigan went in front for the first time after 63 minutes with Danny Tickle's penalty.
Semi Tadulala had a Wakefield try disallowed for a forward pass before Pat Richards dropped the ball for Wigan with the line under his nose.
Wigan put themselves into the fifth-round draw with a messy try seven minutes from time, with Moran's kick ricocheting off defenders before David Vaealiki picked up to score. Richards' last-minute penalty made it a deceptively comfortable 10-point margin for the visitors.
It had all been so different in the first half as Wakefield completely outplayed the only side below them in the Super League table.
Mickey Higham had cancelled out Jamie Field's opening try, but one from Sam Obst and two from Paul White gave Wakefield a convincing lead, which would have been even more commanding if Austin Buchanan had not had a try ruled out for grounding the ball on the touchline.
Wigan looked to be on their way to further misery, and there was an unmistakable note of relief in the celebratory singsong afterwards.
"I'm just really proud of the way the players turned around the deficit like that," said their coach, Ian Millward, with a little of the pressure finally lifted from his shoulders. He should say a big thank-you to Halpenny. His was the sort of error that turns around a match, a season and even a career.
Wakefield: Halpenny; Buchanan, Demetriou, Whittle, Tadulala; Rooney, Obst; Griffin, March, Korkidas, Elima, Field, Betham. Substitutes used: White, Wrench, Applegarth, Catic.
Wigan: Ashton; Calderwood, Vaealiki, Richards, Dallas; Brown, Moran; Seuseu, Higham, Hargreaves, Tickle, Fletcher, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Prescott, O'Carroll, Godwin, Tomkins.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content