Wigan are just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final after becoming the first team to beat Super League table-topping Huddersfield Giants at the John Smith’s Stadium since May.
England winger Josh Charnley scored two of the Warriors’ three tries to become the first Super League player to top 40 tries in the summer era as the Challenge Cup winners cast aside their worrying league form to keep alive their hopes of completing the elusive double.
The Giants finished their league campaign with eight wins out of 10 to claim the leaders shield for the first time for 81 years but they have now won just two out of 10 play-off ties.
They will at least have a second chance to keep their Old Trafford dream alive when they meet the lowest-ranked winner of this weekend’s sudden-death play-offs in next Thursday’s semi-final eliminator, which will be at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Huddersfield did the double over Wigan in the regular season but this time Sam Tomkins was back to lead the Warriors and, without being anywhere near his brilliant best in difficult conditions, he was a calming influence throughout.
The 2010 champions were still without three members of their Challenge Cup-winning team in Sean O’Loughlin, Darrell Goulding and Ben Flower and they made the worst possible start, conceding a fourth-minute try after clever kicks from Giants half-backs Danny Brough and Luke Robinson had forced two goal-line drop-outs.
There did not seem to be any danger to the Wigan defence but Brough sidestepped his way past forward Andy Powell and then wrong-footed Tomkins for a superb individual score to which he added the goal.
Powell, starting only his second match since his cross-code switch, was withdrawn after 14 minutes against Leeds a week ago and he was pulled out of the firing line after only nine minutes tonight, only returning to the action four minutes from the end when the outcome was settled.
The kicking game was always going to be crucial in the conditions and Wigan worked their way back into the game on the back of two goal-line drop-outs forced by stand-off Blake Green.
The pressure told on 23 minutes when centre Anthony Gelling released Charnley and he rounded centre Joe Wardle to claim his 40th try of the season.
Pat Richards levelled the scores with a touchline conversion and edged his side in front with a penalty from the halfway line after Huddersfield’s re-start went out on the full.
Brough tied the scores with a long-range penalty just before half-time but the Warriors were back in front 12 minutes into the second half when Tomkins’ long pass created an overlap for Charnley to score his second try.
Richards maintained his accuracy to put his side six points in front and scrum-half Matty Smith put them two scores in front with a 65th-minute drop goal, moments after seeing an effort charged down by Huddersfield second rower Brett Ferres.
Green then put the seal on Wigan’s win by weaving his way through a tiring defence for a third try and Richards kicked his fourth goal before Smith rounded off the scoring with a second drop goal.