The Thunder were spectacular as they built up an 18-0 lead and they then defended equally well, despite their obvious exhaustion, to resist Wigan's furious fightback.
With a crowd of almost 5,000 at Tynecastle exceeding most expectations, it was a successful outing for the game and its newest club. Gateshead hardly put a foot wrong in the first 15 minutes. Given the initiative from the start when Kris Radlinski kicked dead, they piled on the pressure immediately and claimed their first try when the Irish winger Brian Carney, starting only his second Super League game, reached out to touch down when three tacklers apparently had him bottled up.
Three minutes later, Craig Simon kicked through and Matt Daylight won the race with Jason Robinson to force the ball down.
Daylight scored his 16th try of a productive season when Gateshead rammed the ball down that same left wing, latching on to Simon's kick to squeeze in at the corner.
The only thing wrong with Gateshead's display was that, in the absence of Ian Herron, Ben Sammut missed all three conversions. They then had the first sustained blast of Wigan pressure to withstand and, as they emerged from that, some beautiful handling saw Craig Wilson score their fourth try.
Even with that lead it looked for most of the time remaining that the old firm of Denis Betts and Andy Farrell might pull it round for Wigan. Betts got them on the scoreboard after Robinson had retrieved Greg Florimo's sliced kick and if Florimo's effort had not been disallowed for a knock- on immediately before the break, the outcome could have been very different.
Instead, Gateshead saw Sammut miss a penalty and Willie Peters and Gareth Carvell go close to tries before they inched further ahead through Wilson's drop goal.
With Gateshead almost out on their feet Farrell's wonderful dummy produced a second try for Betts before the Wigan captain went over himself to set up a desperate last 12 minutes.
Gateshead held out and Peters' drop goal gave them another point to see them home.
"The highlight for me was the courage and steel we showed in defence when we had to hang on," Gateshead's coach, Shaun McRae, said. "The game today was one of the best adverts you could have for rugby league. If anyone saw that and said it's a poor game, I'd question their eyesight."
There will be those who find it hard to believe the sight of the Super League table with Gateshead in fifth place just two points behind Wigan, but yesterday's display made it very clear they are there on merit.
Gateshead Thunder: Sammuc; Carmey, Grogan, Simon, Daylight; W Robinson, Peters; Lee, Jenkins, Felsch Wilson, Grimaldi, Bird. Substitute not used: Maiden.
Wigan Warriors: Radlinski; J Robinson, Connelly, Moore, Johnson; T Smith, Clinch; O'Connor, M Smith, Cowie, Betts, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitute not used: Chester.
Referee: Steve Cummings (Widnes).Reuse content