CHRIS Tuson came to the rescue with a last-gasp try to send Wigan back to winning ways in thrilling fashion.
The game was hanging in the balance at 20-20 when the second-rower angled through the Bulls’ defence, stepped one defender and had the power and pace to bulldoze through the covering defence to cross.
Pat Richards coolly added the conversion just before the full-time hooter - adding the crowning glory to a win which seemed so unlikely for around 50 minutes.
The Warriors - missing key players Sam Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin - had a mountain to climb when an out-of-sorts opening half left them trailing 16-4.
They improved in the second-half, Josh Charnley - who had opened the scoring after 54 seconds - adding his second, and Tuson crossing for his first to raise their hopes.
The boot of Jamie Foster kept the home side at jabbing distance away. But Thornley’s late try, converted by Richards, dragged the scores back level - before Tuson’s late involvement.
The win means Wigan will head into their Challenge Cup quarter-final tie against Widnes next week on top of the Super League ladder.
Within a minute, Charnley finished off a crisp attack to the right to open the scoring.
It was the winger’s 24th in Super League, and continued a prolific run of scoring in nine of the last 10 matches. But it would prove to be their only score pf the half and - depressingly - mark the Warriors’ only try in three, consecutive opening halves of rugby league.
From that point on, they just couldn’t find their groove. They fell off tackles too easily, conceded penalties, and far too many promising attacks broke down with misplaced passes or sloppy carries.
Bradford smelled blood, and caught the home side’s right edge napping in the 15th minute. Foster sent winger Sam Wood into space, evaded captain Harrison Hansen’s desperate lunge, and drew Hampshire to send Michael Platt over for a try. With Foster kicking the goal, the visitors led 6-4.
The Bulls kicked a 40-20 to keep WIgan on the back-foot, and they soon managed to extend their advantage, Ian Sidlow profiting from the home side’s failure to deal with a high kick and crossing to make it 12-4.
Wigan did have spells on their opponents’ line, but their dull, pedestrian attacks never asked questions of Bradford’s defence. John Bateman grabbed the Bulls’ third try when he managed to stretch out in the tackle and plunge the ball over the whitewash.
If the game was televised, it would almost certainly have been referred to the video referee to see if the forward dropped the ball, but the try stood, and Wigan went in at half-time 16-4 down.
From the restart, Blake Green - rusty on his comeback last week - began to take control, and he needed to; as well as the class of Tomkins and O’Loughlin, Wigan sorely lacked their leadership.
Foster edged Bradford further ahead, and the longer the game went on, the more unsettled the home side became. Eventually, though, their persistence was rewarded when a passing move to the right ended with Hampshire sending Charnley over unchecked. Richards swung the conversion attempt wide, but from the restart, they maintained their sense of urgency as Flower burst through an opening and sent Tuson clear.
Richard’s goal closed the gap to just four points, setting up a tense final few minutes - even if fans didn’t know how long was remaining because of a faulty stadium clock!
Foster nosed Bulls six points ahead with a penalty, but Wigan rallied in a frantic finish, Thornley ghosting through a scattered defence to slide over and cut the margin to just two points.
Richards drew the scores level - before Tuson secured the victory in the most nail-biting of manners.
Wigan: Hampshire; Charnley, Thornley, Gelling, Richards; Green, Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Dudson, Hansen, Farrell, Tuson. Subs: Hughes, Powell, Flower, L Tomkins.
Bradford: Foster; Kear, Purtell, Platt, Wood; Addy, Gale; Scruton, Diskin, Manuokafoa, Bateman, Blythe, Donaldson. Subs: L’Estrange, Sidlow, Roberts, Evans.
Referee: Tim Roby
Starman: Harrison Hansen
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