Wigan 30 Wakefield 42
Teenage centre James Worthington scored two tries on debut but it wasn't enough as Wigan slipped to their second defeat in five days - and lost further ground on the top-four.
In a barmy game, fans saw the best (briefly) and worse of Wigan - and everything in between. They looked untouchable as they took a 20-0 lead and yet trailed at the break after an alarming crumble.
Stand-off George Williams provided the best of Wigan’s attacking chances, but their leaky defence conceded seven tries - only Castleford have scored more points against Shaun Wane’s side this year.
Wakefield were, aside from the start, more dominant in the middle, and had the attacking polish and confidence to show their ascent into the top-five has not been a fluke.
Wigan - whose last Super League win was against Catalans on April 23 - now have a month of away fixtures and Wane will be hoping to drip-feed some more senior players into his side during that critical spell.
Indeed, the number 41 on his back stood as a testament to where Worthington was on the Wigan pecking order.
But injury withdrawals to Liam Forsyth and Joe Burgess - and centres Oliver Gildart and Anthony Gelling also out - thrust him into the spotlight for a home debut just days after his 18th birthday.
The former St Jude’s junior became the seventh academy-product to debut this year.
Joel Tomkins failed to recover from a calf strain in time, taking the total of missing frontline stars to 10 - including numbers one to five in the squad list.
Outside the ground, there was a small police presence as part of extra security measures, and a fans’ village for the last home game for a month. Inside, Wigan X-factor contestent Olivia Garcia performed before kick-off.
Wigan had performed well in Thursday’s loss to St Helens and the Magic Weekend draw with Warrington days earlier.
But after a run of four matches without a win - and with Wakefield winning all their games in that period to climb two points above them in the ladder - there was a nervousness before kick-off.
Wigan went someway to easing those edges in a whirlwind 20 minutes which saw them score as many unanswered points - only for Wakefield to take the lead before half-time!
It was a surreal first-half, with Wigan turning from superb to soft.
Worthington had helped get them off to a dream start, crossing with his first touch - from Williams’ floated kick over. From the next set, Williams sent Liam Farrell clear, and he in turn found Lewis Tierney in support.
Wigan, at this point, were full of energy and composed. Jack Wells, starting in right second-row spot, and Frank-Paul Nu’uasala were particularly strong.
Liam Marshall showed a great left-foot step to poach his 15th try of the season - and move clear at the top of the club’s try scoring charts - from Williams’ wonderful pass. The stand-off’s footwork was less admirable - he was off-target with a goal-attempt which fell into the ‘kickable’ category.
But when he attacked the line to send the supporting Thomas Leuluai over, and add his second goal, Wigan looked comfortably in control at 20-0.
The action was punctuated by some ferocious collisions, from both sides - Tierney showed his mettle to bounce to his feet from a bone-jarring tackle by Craig Huby.
But the introduction of powerhouse David Fifita from the bench helped turn the game in the visitors’ favour and they scored four tries - including a hat-trick by Bill Tupou.
In the 27th minute, a left-to-right shift finished with Tupou punishing a stretched defence. The visitors’ cause wasn’t helped by the loss of Tinirau Arona to a leg injury.
But they powered on and, piggy-backed down field from a penalty, crossed again in almost the same spot, from the same player. Captain Sean O’Loughlin was spelled, during which time Trinity added two more before half-time.
Wigan, profiting from back-to-back penalties of their own, went close to scoring through Willie Isa but Wakefield countered spectacularly, going the full length in their next set for Mason Caton-Brown to dive over in the corner.
Wigan’s defence crumbled for Trinity’s fourth, as Tupou shrugged through and angled under the sticks, with Liam Finn’s superior kicking - he hit three of four attempts - nudging them into a lead which would have been unthinkable after 20 minutes.
The Warriors started the second-half brightly, Isa again going close, but it was Wakefield who scored first. Sam Williams dragged the defence out of shape, and a nice inside ball saw Danny Kirmond - back on the pitch from a concussion assessment - run through a clear path to the line. Finn’s goal made it 28-20.
Wigan had a spell of pressure, earning a repeat set, but cheaply coughed up possession to let Ashley Gibson race down field and, from that position, Finn’s penalty opened up a 10-point gap.
Trinity had plenty of zip from dummy-half, allowing Finn to attack a retreating defence and send Anthony England over with a looping pass. His conversion made it 36-20 and, approaching the hour-mark, it seemed the game may be over.
But the return of O’Loughlin, and then McIlorum, added some direction and after working their way down field, Williams’ short pass sent Worthington over for his second try. Marshall took over the goal-kicking and reeled in Trinity’s lead to 10-points.
Wigan forced passes as they went hunting a comeback and, with errors creeping in, Jacob Miller darted at the defence and rolled over, Finn’s conversion - allowed to be retaken - making it 42-26.
Marshall added a second try but it proved scant consolation.