Shaun Wane hailed Sam Tomkins after his match-winning return to the Wigan side.
Full-back Tomkins, making his long-awaited return to action after breaking his foot last September, landed a critical drop goal as the Warriors edged out Warrington 27-26 in a dramatic clash at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Wane said: “He never kicks a drop goal, ever, but what we love about him is he is very competitive. He wants to win.
“He just showed there he wants to win games and he has done that since he was eight. I’ve done nothing to help that, it is just him, and he did a great job today.”
While Tomkins’ one-pointer proved telling, it was not the final act of an absorbing encounter.
Trailing 27-20 with seven minutes remaining, Warrington still had time to set up a dramatic finale and did so when Kurt Gidley forced his way over to bring the hosts back within a point.
Nerves then appeared to get the better of Wigan’s Joe Burgess - who had scored the game’s opening two tries - as he put the resulting restart out on the full.
That gave Stefan Ratchford a chance to snatch victory with a halfway line penalty, but he put his attempt wide. Declan Patton also missed narrowly with a last-gasp drop-goal attempt which would have sent the game into extra-time.
Asked what he felt like after the Burgess error, Wane said: “Running on the pitch and punching him about 40 times! You can’t do that at our level. If that had cost us I would be in a different mood.”
Burgess himself held his hands up to the mistake, tweeting after the game: “I was honestly planning a new life, new job, new identity but hey on to the semis.”
Wane felt the game, which became scrappy on a hot day, was a little too close for comfort.
He said: “It was a frustrating one. I think we deserved to win the game but credit to Warrington, they’re pretty busted and low on confidence but they really pushed us.
“It was just one of those where you want to win the game whether it’s ugly or pretty.”
Both sides had gone into the game in poor form and for Warrington, 10th in Super League, an opportunity to invigorate their campaign may have been missed.
Coach Tony Smith at least felt his players had given a good account of themselves after responding to Burgess’ early double with two from Ryan Atkins. The tense ending came after Andre Savelio and Gidley cancelled out touchdowns from Liam Marshall and John Bateman.
He said: “There wasn’t much between us. There were a few too many errors but I thought Wigan were similar.
“They’d invite us into the game and then we’d invite them into the game, but in terms of effort, character, fight, spirit, there was plenty of it from my boys.”
Smith felt it would be unfair to blame Ratchford for missing the late penalty.
He said: “I’m not going to put it on Stef. It wasn’t down to any one person. There were opportunities for us to take throughout that game and we didn’t take them.”