Wigan 20 Hull FC 22
Wigan battled back from 22-points down to go within a whisker of snatching a dramatic win.
Having trailed 22-0 early in the second-half, they scored four unanswered tries during a stirring finish.
When Liam Marshall dived over to reel in the visitors’ lead to just two points late on, it was left to Morgan Escare to add the conversion which would have earned a point.
But his sideline effort was off-target and, in a frantic finish, FC held on for the win which sent them top of the ladder.
It was the Warriors’ first loss of the year but given how depleted they were, this result was wholly satisfying for the home fans who watched the side dig deep.
There was no shortage of effort in the first-half, even when they trailed 18-0 at half-time. Several times they were either held up over the line, put into touch or stopped just short, and the visitors’ three tries came during a nine-minute blitz.
But when they powered ahead from the restart, it appeared it would be a game too far for this depleted side. It looked like the Warriors would fade. Not so.
Sparked by George Williams, they roared back in style with another comeback, and went close to claiming something from the game.
Last week’s draw with Huddersfield was a point gained, rather than dropped. And the loss of Sean O’Loughlin and Jack Wells from that line-up stretched Wigan’s casualty list to 13 - including 10 frontline stars.
Wane’s three-quarters included a trio of recent debutants - Tom Davies, Liam Forsyth and Liam Marshall - while Nick Gregson and Joe Bretherton made their first appearances of the year from the bench.
Hull FC, without Fetuli Talanoa and Carlos Tuimavave, had won their last three matches.
The game - delayed 10 minutes because Hull FC were hit by traffic - was preceded by an impeccably-observed minute’s silence for victims of the London terrorist attack.
A spill from Mahe Fonua on the halfway presented the home side a solid early chance. They played fast, and stand-in skipper Thomas Leuluai attempted to wriggle through before the attack fizzled out. Another mistake by a winger - this time Marshall - presented a chance for FC to open their account moments later, Marc Sneyd floating a kick over to a deserted corner for Steve Michaels to touch down. Sneyd added the 13th minute conversion.
Hull FC’s cause was hampered by the loss of Man of Steel hooker Danny Houghton, who went straight down the tunnel for treatment. But they powered ahead with two further tries in a seven-minute blitz.
First, Albert Kelly raced through a stretched defence and - having initially been stopped by Liam Marshall - got back to his feet to plunge the ball down.
And without Wigan having had a set in possession, they chalked up their third when Sika Manu’s sweet flick pass sent Jake Connor over. Sneyd tagged on both conversions to make it 18-0.
And while Wigan did not score, they had solid chances. Sam Powell was held-up over the line, Davies was denied in the corner and - approaching half-time - Forsyth was bundled into touch.
If their bright finish to the first-half offered them any hope, it was distinguished within a minute of the restart. Josh Griffin broke through a flaky defence and supporting full-back Jamie Shaul turned on the afterburners to beat Escare to the line, stretching their lead to 22 points.
Rather than deflate Wigan, that try roused them, and Davies’ break on the right edge led to a chance for Forsyth on the left, but he was blocked just short. The fans dialled up the volume to encourage the champions, and Forsyth eventually got his first try for the club - and the team’s first of the night - by collecting Williams’ hanging kick in heavy congestion, and touching down. Escare missed the conversion.
Williams then showed his footballing skills for a try to reel in FC’s lead to six points, Davies dived over in the corner and, in a surreal finish, Marshall crossed on the opposite edge. But it just wasn’t enough. Wigan travel to Leeds on Friday.
Wigan: Escare; Davies, Gelling, Forsyth, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Tomkins, Isa, Clubb. Subs: Tautai, Gregson, Bretherton, Navarrete.
Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Connor, Griffin, Michaels; Kelly, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Bowden, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Subs: Matongo, Green, Thompson, Washbrook.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Starman: George Williams