Wigan 48 Catalans 24
Wigan will storm into the semi-finals in confident-mood - and in good attacking form - after an eight-try demolition job secured them second-spot in the table.
Just a week after their stirring comeback win at Warrington, they sharpened their attacking skills even more with a clinical display for an hour of this game.
Matty Smith finished with a personal haul of 24 points with two tries and eight goals from as many attempts. George Williams also bagged a first-half double, which Wigan led 36-4.
And the top-two finish has handed them a home semi-final next week, against a Hull FC side who have won just one of four matches since their Challenge Cup Final.
Wigan have maintained a regular spot in the top-three this year largely through a combination of character and a confrontational defence.
They have now added attacking polish to that mix, lighting up this match with slick combinations and long-range breaks.
All of their eight tries were scored in the opening 60 minutes, with Catalans’ late flourish coming from the visitors chancing their arm and the Warriors easing up, and withdrawing playmaker George Williams.
The game - marketed as the Big One - drew a crowd of 16,140, to give them an average attendance for the season of 13,491, an increase on last year’s figure.
Joe Burgess, returning to the club for 2017, was given a vocal reception when he was introduced to the crowd at half-time.
Wigan were without Sam Tomkins and suspended Ben Flower from the side which beat Warrington 25-28 a week ago.
And they were dealt a further blow minutes before kick-off when captain Sean O’Loughlin - due to return from a hamstring injury lay-off - was withdrawn from the team.
He left warm-up earlier than his team-mates and, minutes later, the late-change was confirmed with 18th man Joe Bretherton coming into the frame, and Dom Crosby - in his 100th game - starting at loose-forward.
Wigan, wearing a special heritage shirt, made a dream start.
They forced an error from Catalans, and Anthony Gelling eventually capitalised after his drilled grubber was spilled, and he was on hand to regather and touch down.
Catalans had a spell on their hosts’ line but all their threats - channelled through Glenn Stewart and Richie Myler - were absorbed, before they countered in wonderful fashion.
John Bateman’s dogged determination saw him break into the Dragons 20, and on the next play, Williams’ footwork and pace unlocked the defence to make it 12-0.
Their next try was even better.
Dan Sarginson broke from deep and, after being tracked down, Gelling advanced the ball, flicked a pass to Bateman, who chipped the ball on and had the pace to regather and touch down.
And from the restart, they took their points tally ahead of the number of minutes played, Liam Farrell breaking through, drawing full-back Tony Gigot and passing to the supporting Williams to make it 24-0.
The Warriors remained on the front foot, the tempo dropping only when the game was held up as Stewart received treatment for a facial injury.
When play resumed, they extended their lead as Bretherton angled over for his first senior try - avoiding the club’s ‘naked run’ in the process to make it 30 points. Wigan were growing in confidence - and had the skills to match.
Deep inside their own territory, they pounced on a Dragons error, with Gelling using the ‘freeplay’ to grubber a kick into the path of Charnley, who regathered and scorched down field for his 23rd try of the season.
Vincent Duport finished a stylish move as the half-time siren sounded, but at 36-4 in front, Wigan were well on course for victory.
They showed no signs of easing off as the second-half began, Charnley arcing around a stretched defence and feeding Smith for their seventh try.
Williams was withdrawn in the 45th minute and after a string of penalties eased the Dragons down field, they punishing a napping defence when Justin Horo grounded in the corner. Richie Myler was unable to convert - Tony Gigot was off-target with his first-half attempt - to keep Wigan well in control at 42-8.
Smith’s second try, from his own grubber, was again followed by a Catalans response, Lucas Albert finishing a freeflowing move. Myler was again off target, making it 48-12. They left it far too late to mount a comeback, but Myler crossed under the sticks, converting himself, to at least put a plaster over some of their wounds.
Catalans finished the game with 12 men after Horo was sinbinned for a professional foul, making a play for a pass while offside. But they managed to add another try through Jordan Sigismeau, though their late flourish did little to take the shine off Wigan’s evening.
Wigan: Sarginson; Charnley, Gelling, Gildart, Tierney; Williams, Smith; Sutton, Powell, Nuuausala, Farrell, Bateman, O’Loughlin. Subs: Crosby, Tautai, Isa, Shorrocks.
Catalans: Gigot; Broughton, Garcia, Duport, Sigismeau; Albert, Myler; Busquet, Aiton, Casty, Stewart, Horo, Anderson. Subs: Taylor, Da Costa, Navarrete, Seguier.
Referee: Phil Bentham