Catalans 10 Wigan 32
Four tries in the last 20 minutes gave Wigan a fine 32-10 victory over the Catalans Dragons in Perpignan, which lifts them level with sixth-placed St Helens - and only four points off the all-important top four.
The game looked delicately poised at 10-10 approaching the hour mark, before Oliver Gildart put Joe Burgess over for his second try in the corner.
That was followed by further scores from man-of-the-match George Williams and Sam Tomkins, before Burgess completed his hat-trick in the dying seconds.
While Wigan undoubtedly deserved their victory, the margin of the win was unquestionably harsh on the Dragons, who gave as good as they got for three-quarters of an absorbing encounter, and had led 10-8 thanks to a brace of tries from Vincent Duport.
The home side were asking questions as early as the 10th minute, when the impressive Lucas Albert broke down the left, and only good scrambling defence from Tom Davies and Burgess kept him out.
Catalans quickly spun the ball out right to try to find a gap, but Tomkins did well to fall on a loose ball and the danger had passed.
Wigan themselves were looking dangerous in the opening quarter, and they mustered the first points midway through the first period.
A lovely show-and-go from Williams allowed the classy stand-off the space to put a clever kick in behind the right-hand edge of the Dragons defence.
Team-mate Burgess was the first to react and, despite losing his feet, he literally crawled over the line by the corner flag.
A superb touchline conversion from Williams put the visitors 6-0 up, but the home side hit back within five minutes.
Again the danger stemmed from Albert, who had missed the last five matches, but was restored to the side with Greg Bird and Richie Myler suspended.
The half-back stabbed through a pinpoint kick behind Tom Davies, allowing the onrushing Duport to win the race to the ball.
Luke Walsh couldn’t convert, and Wigan took full advantage right from Burgess’ kick off, which swirled around viciously and was commpletely misjudged by the home defence.
A Wigan man was obstructed as he chased the loose ball, and Williams booted over the penalty from bang in front to make it 8-4.
The Warriors had a scare a couple of minutes before half-time when Tomkins safely took a high kick only to loose the ball in the tackle, inside his own 20-metre area.
Good defence kept the home side out, though, and Wigan were relieved to hold a narrow interval lead.
Credit to Catalans, they turned the scoreboard on its head within eight minutes of the restart, with Walsh’s kick being gathered by Duport, who appeared to ground the ball before it was picked up by Anthony Gelling.
While the players waited for the whistle, Gelling raced fully 60 metres before offloading to Williams, who jinked past two defenders and raced over for a dramatic length-of-the-field score.
Referee Robert Hicks elected to go the screen, but his initial call of ‘no try’ for Catalans was swiftly overturned by the video referee before the validity of Williams’ ‘try’ could be assessed.
Walsh’s fine conversion put the French side in front for the first time at 10-8, and Wigan were immediately under pressure from the next set when Davies fumbled a huge bomb and was fortunate to drop on the ball on his own line as Catalans players closed in.
Davies thought he was in at the other end moments later, but the official ruled he’d been pushed into touch before getting the ball down in the corner, not even seeking the opinion of the video ref.
But a routine penalty in front of the sticks allowed the boot of Williams to lock up the scores heading towards the final quarter.
And Wigan made their superior fitness tell under the blazing sun in Perpignan with a quartet of scores in the last 20 minutes, to leave the Dragons on their knees.
Lovely footwork from Gildart on the hour mark put Burgess in at the corner for his second try, which Williams was unable to convert - the only blemish on his copybook.
But the England No.6 made amends when he took John Bateman’s offload to dummy his way over and send Wigan two scores clear for the first time with 14 minutes to go.
Icing was applied to the cake with five minutes to go, when Mike McIlorum’s short-range kick was collected and then dropped by Tony Gigot, with Tomkins applying downward pressure for his first try in almost a year.
And there was still time for Burgess to complete his hat-trick in the last minute, with Williams adding salt to the Catalans wounds with another brilliant conversion.