Warrington Wolves 16 Wigan Warriors 38
Liam Marshall was only just walking the last time Wigan won the first five games of the season in 1998.
In this Grand Final rematch, he ran away with a magical four-try haul as a depleted Warriors side - missing nine frontline players - put Warrington to the sword.
There was so much to admire about this Wigan performance, from the accuracy of their kicking game to the adventure of their attack, and the energy which was finger-printed across their display.
If Castleford had laid down a marker of their trophy-hunt credentials this season, then Wigan provided a less-than-subtle reminder of their champion qualities.
For the hundreds of fans at the HJ and the thousands more watching on TV, this was a night to remember.
And no-one will treasure the memory more than Marshall - son of ex-player Dave - who was working as accountant just a few months ago, thinking his top-flight chances had slipped him by.
No wonder Shaun Wane wasn’t worried about bringing him, and the other young players, into his side.
Both sides enjoyed success a month ago against NRL opposition, but they headed into the game with contrasting form in Super League.
Wigan had won all of their three games, while Warrington had lost theirs.
Still, with Shaun Wane’s casualty list stretching to nine following injuries to Ryan Sutton, Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney, he was forced to give debuts to Liam Forsyth and Romain Navarette and the visitors went into this clash as the bookmakers’ underdogs.
But Wigan have a habit of defying the odds against this opposition, and by half-time they had established a 20-6 lead after a dominant display with no shortage of style. They hardly let up after the break, suffocating the Wolves of chances and pressing home their superiority.
They posted the first of their four first-half tries within seven minutes.
Marshall, who retained his place after last week’s debut, showed his predatory instincts to ground George Williams’ drilled grubber before sliding over the deadball line. It was the winger’s first try for the club, but by the 20-minute mark from Sean O’Loughlin’s bouncing pass.
Sandwiching his double was a touchdown from Anthony Gelling, which was also provided by O’Loughlin, but the credit belonged to Morgan Escare, for blazing down field, and Sam Powell for releasing the French livewire.
Escare also kicked two of his conversions, and cemented his unofficial status as one of the signings of the season with another eye-catching outing.
Warrington had chances of their own, but they were either choked out by Wigan’s defence, or the home side simply choked. Harvey Livett - surprisingly making his first senior start at halfback - was pulled back for a forward pass by Joe Westerman. Livett broke through again in the 25th minute from Ashton Sims’ sweet pass, but Escare was up to the task.
The game was pacy and had few interruptions, and after the half-hour mark Wigan posted their fourth try when a wonderful delayed pass by Williams sent Liam Farrell crashing over. Warrington cast themselves a lifeline just before the break when Ryan Atkins finished off a move started from inside their own half, Kurt Gidley on hand to kick the goal which reeled in Wigan’s lead to 14-points.
But the visitors’ energetic defence - led by Joel Tomkins and O’Loughlin - harassed the home side from the restart, allowing Wigan to re-establish a 20-point buffer.
Gidley’s attempted tip-on pass went to ground, and Marshall scooped up the ball to race away for his hat-trick. The video referee ruled out another try moments later for Forsyth - the winger had chased O’Loughlin’s teasing kick, after the skipper burst through.
Navarrete and Jack Wells came off the bench before the hour-mark, and the latter marked the occasion with his first try for the club, a simple support effort from Williams’ break. With Escare converting both tries, it pushed their lead out to an incredible, unforeseeable, 32-6.
Substitute Rhys Evans punished a stretched defence with 15 minutes to go and Tom Lineham added another try, but they proved scant consolation for Warrington, who will spend at least another week at the bottom of the Super League ladder.
In between those scores, Marshall bagged his fourth try - from Willie Isa’s pass - and even went hunting a fifth after Farrell’s midfield dash.
Wigan face Huddersfield at the DW Stadium a week on Sunday.