Warriors 16 Warrington 28
Dom Manfredi's first hat-trick of the year did little to ease the pain and frustration of this derby defeat.
Wigan trailed 26-4 early in the second-half when Manfredi crossed twice to give his side hope, and the match an exciting finish.
But the comeback never materialised as the Warriors ultimately paid the price for a lifeless, error-littered opening half.
The Warriors’ solid defence has underpinned their strong, if unconvincing, start to this Super League season.
But the Wolves picked them apart far too easily, far too often. Indiscipline blighted their display and - when they were in possession - their attack ranged between poor and pedestrian.
Only occasionally did they fire into life and show the skill and try-scoring finesse they are capable of. The game finished with several talking points and questions but there was no argument Warrington were the better side.
Wigan trailed 22-4 by half-time and the loss of Sean O’Loughlin robbed them of their best, most experienced, player.
Those looking for mitigating factors could point out Wigan were depleted by injuries to key personnel. Warrington, by contrast, looked in rude health, able to name all their squad from 1 to 14.
But Shaun Wane has rarely been one for excuse, and the side he turned out should still have performed better, for longer.
There were a few good passages, and there was effort. But it seemed every time they gave themselves a chance, they undid their good work with an error, a penalty, a soft try conceded.
Only Jack Higginson - on debut at centre - will remember this one.
Wane seems to favour big games to expose his academy-graduates - Nick Gregson and Oliver Gildart made their first appearances against Leeds and Wolves respectively.
And with Josh Charnley and Dan Sarginson announcing their exit this week, it seemed logical to give him a taste. The 18-year-old made some strong carries and a half-break, more than atoning for a handling error midway through second-half.
Warrington’s side featured five Wiganers, including former academy player Ben Currie - and his duel with Joel Tomkins was among the many exciting match-ups being discussed in the build-up.
With both sides heading in with identical records, it was a chance for the victors to open up a two-point lead at the top.
The fear was the hectic Easter schedule may affect the quality of the game - a fixture which rarely disappoints - but the early exchanges were encouraging.
Wigan had early chances on their opponents’ line, but Matty Smith’s short-kicking game was easily dealt with. Slowly, surely, the Wolves took a grip of the contest. Their forwards ate up metres and, with the Warriors’ discipline escaping them, they scored three tries in less than 10 minutes.
Currie - a former Warriors academy player - started the blitz when he powered beyond Smith to the line. From the resulting kick-off, Wigan’s early woe was compounded when a missed tackle by Willie Isa - back in the side after six games out - allowed the visitors to sweep up field.
Liam Farrell was subsequently sinbinned for a professional foul, after delaying the play-the-ball, and he hadn’t left the pitch when Chris Sandow’s looping pass was collected by an unchecked Tom Lineham.
Wigan struggled to break the Wolves’ momentum, and Sandow’s precise shallow kick was collected by a grateful Kevin Penny.
The only saving grace for Shaun Wane’s outfit was Sandow was off-target with all his conversions, keeping the margin at an assailable 12 points.
Sarginson fumbled a kick by the touchline, gifting Warrington more possession, which ultimately led to a penalty which Stefan Ratchford took, after Sandow was taken off injured.
Wigan did improve, briefly. Josh Charnley had a try ruled out from O’Loughlin’s forward pass and, moments later, showing better shape and playing with a faster tempo, they swung the ball to the other edge, where Manfredi bravely dived over before the covering defence could reach him.
That bright patch didn’t last, however, as Warrington’s left edge cut their hosts apart and, after an exchange of passes, Ratchford dived over.
He took exception to Farrell, who slid in with his knees as he went over - resulting in a rare eight-point try.
It wasn’t a game for Farrell to remember. When Joel Tomkins darted across the line to stack the left attack, and cross from a sweet O’Loughlin pass, the try was harshly ruled out for obstruction by Farrell in the build-up.
With O’Loughlin leaving the action before half-time, their hopes of a comeback were stretched further. And Within five minutes of the restart, Wolves had ensured that would be near-impossible as Ryan Atkins was allowed to place the ball down in the tackle.
A fourth goalkicker stepped up - Joe Westerman - but he was off-target, making it 26-4 to the visitors.
Wigan couldn’t be accused of surrendering.
Tomkins, in particular, stepped up and provided a delicate stab-through for Manfredi to pounce on.
And after scrappy passages for both sides, Manfredi completed his hat-trick when he took Sarginson’s neat pass and dived through Warrington’s congested defence. Charnley converted from the touchline, cutting the Wolves lead to 10 points.
But they sorely lacked inspiration and direction, and the trend of releasing the pressure tap continued and Gidley’s late penalty swelled the Wolves’ lead to 12 points.
Wigan: Sarginson; Manfredi, Higginson, Gildart, Charnley; O’Loughlin, Smith; Mossop, Powell, Clubb, J Tomkins, Farrell, Isa. Subs: Tautai, Sutton, Burke, Gregson.
Warrington: Russell; Penny, Evans, Atkins, Lineham; Gidley, Sandow; Hill, Clark, Sims, Currie, Hughes, Westwood. Subs: Ratchford, Westerman, King, Cox.
Referee: Robert Hicks
Starman: Joel Tomkins