JOE Burgess scored his first Super League hat-trick as Wigan won their first away game in more than nine months.
But the Warriors made hard work of claiming the victory, which nudged their way up to second in the table - for 24 hours at least - and ended a strange quirk of results.
Shaun Wane’s men may have an impressive home record, but they hadn’t won on their travels since beating Catalans last July - while their last victory in West Yorkshire was a staggering 19 months ago!
Few expected that barren run to continue on a mild night at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium. The injury-hit Wildcats had lost their last eight Super League matches, while Wigan headed into the game in confident mood following four victories in their last five outings.
Furthermore, Wane resisted the temptation to rotate his squad and made only one change to the squad which overcame Warrington 30-20 a week ago, with fit-again Sam Powell replacing Logan Tomkins on the bench.
But if the visitors thought the result was a formality, they were awoken within the first minute when Matt Ryan broke from his own half and sent Craig Hall over for a try he converted.
Wigan replied, but the seesawing scoring exchanges - which provided most of the entertainment, given the overall lack of quality - saw the visitors hold just a slender 24-18 lead at the break.
Wane had asked them to approach the game with the same attitude as a derby, but there was little evidence of it. So often they lacked direction, forced too many passes and played with too little aggression. No player enhanced their reputation, though there were flashes of quality from a few, including George Williams and Dom Crosby.
Indeed, it was Crosby who opened Wigan’s account when, on the back of solid approach work, he barged his way over from short-range for his first try in two years. Matty Smith’s first of six goals, from seven attempts, drew the scoreline level.
And the scrum-half doubled their tally minutes later, Crosby’s decoy run prising up a gap for the half-back to ghost through - though his path to the line was cleared by Hall’s bizarre decision not to make an attempt to tackle him.
After a patchy spell, Wigan appeared to take control midway through the half when Dan Sarginson’s flick-pass unleashed Burgess, and he raced over.
But at 18-6 up, the Warriors let the home side back into the contest when Reece Lyne’s break provided the position for Danny Kirmond to cross, from a neat Dan Smith offload.
Both teams were reduced to 12-men when Tim Smith, at marker, appeared to slap Powell after he had played the ball. Powell, who had just come off the bench, retaliated and referee Robert Hicks showed both players yellow cards.
There was still time for an exchange of tries before the half-time siren. Dom Manfredi pounced for his seventh try in three games, an incredible strike-rate which justifies his selection ahead of England flyer Josh Charnley.
But just before the break, Taulima Tautai blotted his strong defensive stint with a penalty, and after marching down field, Pita Godinet darted from dummy-half for the Wildcats’ third try.
The Warriors probably had Wane’s words ringing in their ears when they extended their lead, Burgess punishing a weak right edge to score his second try of the night.
But for a third time they threw away a 12-point advantage, Tautai’s spill inside his own half gobbled up by the alert Godinet, who sent Chris Riley over.
And they showed few signs of improvement, their disjointed attack typified by Gelling’s misguided pass to Burgess, which ended with the winger being trapped behind his own line. Thankfully, on that occasion, Richard Owen knocked on immediately from the drop-out.
Wakefield faded as the game entered the final quarter, and when Lee Mossop charged onto McIlorum’s short ball and powered his way over, it effectively ended the game as a contest. Smith’s sixth goal made the score 36-22.
Burgess was denied his first Super League hat-trick when the video officials spotted a knock-on before he grounded George Williams’ delicate kick. But minutes later he wasn’t to be denied, collecting stand-off Williams’ direct cut-out pass to take him to 10 for the season - joint-top of the try-scoring charts.
Wakefield: Hall; Owen, Ryan, Lyne, Riley; Godinet, T Smith; Scruton, McShane, Kavanagh, Washbrook, Kirmond, Crowther. Subs: Lauitiiti, D Smith, Kirke, Simon.
Wigan: Hampshire; Manfredi, Gelling, Sarginson, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Mossop, McIlorum, Crosby, Tomkins, Farrell, Bateman. Subs: Powell, Tautai, Flower, Clubb.