The Vikings were leading 12-2 midway through the first half and looking the better side. By the time they got the ball again, they had conceded four tries and were on their way to a defeat that means the wrong combination of results next weekend will send them down.
"That's been the story of our season,'' mused their coach, Frank Endacott. "We compete for long periods of time and then they put three or four tries on us. We go to sleep and we pay for it.''
That spell, which brought tries from Kevin Brown, Danny Sculthorpe, Stephen Wild and David Allen, was the turning point for Wigan, who still have realistic hopes of making the play-offs.
"We handled that period extremely well and that's where it was won,'' said their coach, Ian Millward.
Wigan had lacked composure early on, with Terry Newton sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Stephen Myler, and Keiran Kerr and Myler scoring the tries that gave Widnes hope.
After that, nothing ran their way, with Wigan's fourth try coming from a cruel stroke of luck when Dennis Moran's kick was charged down but bounced into the arms of the 17-year-old debutant, Daryl Goulding, who sent Allen over.
Widnes staged a brief revival when Adam Hughes went 95 yards after intercepting Newton's pass, but Wigan took firm control after the break.
A lovely run and kick from Moran set up James Coyle for his first Super League try, before Brad Watts, one of Widnes' last-minute signings in their attempt to avoid the drop, lost the ball behind his own line and Newton pounced.
Harrison Hansen, Bob Beswick and Moran completed the damage, but Widnes showed that there is still some spirit in the camp by scoring the last try when Watts supported Kerr's break. The mathematics are such, though, that it will take a lot more than that to save them now.
Millward said afterwards that Goulding appeared to have broken his foot. "I look forward to working with him next year,'' he said, but this year might not be quite over for Wigan yet.
Widnes: Watts; Hughes, Connolly, Whittle, Viane; Myler, Kerr; O'Connor, Smith, Julian O'Neill, Cassidy, Nash, Finnigan. Substitutes used: Jules O'Neill, Hulse, Mills, Alcock.
Wigan: Dallas; Carney, Brown, Goulding, Aspinwall; Coyle, Moran; Seuseu, Newton, Hargreaves, Wild, Tomkins, Tickle. Substitutes used: Hansen, Sculthorpe, Allen, Beswick.
Referee: I Smith (Oldham)
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