Jackson Hastings dropped a goal with three minutes remaining to extend Wigan’s best start to a Super League season with a 17-16 win over his old club Salford.
The Australian showed a cool head to send over the one pointer and put Wigan in front for the first time in a match they looked destined for long periods to lose.
But the dramatic win was overshadowed by the loss of star full-back Bevan French to injury after half-an-hour.
Around 4,000 fans, including 400 who had travelled from Wigan, were allowed in to the AJ Bell Stadium for the first time in more than 14 months, but it was the minority who went home happy as Adrian Lam’s side made it seven wins from seven, with Brad Singleton scoring two tries.
Salford battled hard throughout and also had the chance of a winning drop goal in the closing stages, but Morgan Escare’s effort was charged down.
Despite only having won once in Super League this season, it was Salford who made the stronger start.
Former Wigan full-back Escare saw a try disallowed in the seventh minute for obstruction, but the hosts did not have too much longer to wait to open the scoring.
Harvey Livett intercepted a John Bateman pass as Wigan attacked the Salford line and he had the pace to go almost the length of the pitch to score.
Although he was unable to add the conversion, he kicked a penalty moments later as Wigan were cautioned for a ball steal.
Wigan were level in the 19th minute. Prop Singleton reached over from close range to score a try which Harry Smith converted to make it 6-6.
Salford’s Jack Wells, who had only just replaced Greg Burke, then scored his first try for the club with his first touch of the ball 15 minutes before half-time, showing great strength to get over from 10 metres out.
Livett’s goal opened re-established Salford’s six-point lead.
The injury to French forced Wigan into a positional reshuffle on the half-hour mark, but they responded well.
Tui Lolohea’s kick was trapped by Smith, who then set off on a mazy 80-metre run, leaving a string of Salford defenders in his wake.
With only Escare left to beat he shipped out a huge pass to the supporting Liam Farrell to touch down. Smith was unable to add the conversion.
Three minutes before half-time, Livett kicked a penalty after Wigan were guilty of interference at the play-the-ball.
Chances were scarce as the second half got off to a cagey start, Salford adding to their lead with a Livett penalty in the 53rd minute.
It was a lead they seemed relatively comfortable defending, but they were opened up 15 minutes from the end when Singleton got over for his second try with a driving run to the line. Smith’s conversion made it 16-16.
Escare saw a drop-goal attempt charged down 10 minutes from the end before Hastings made no mistake to settle the contest.
Salford: Escare; Sio, Watkins, Livett, Williams, Lolohea, Patton, Ikahihifo, Addy, Burke, Lannon, Pauli, Taylor. Subs: Atkin, Lussick, Ormondroyd, Wells.
Tries: Livett, Wells. Goals: Livett 4.
Wigan: French; Manfredi, Shorrocks, Bibby, Hardaker, Smith, Hastings, Havard, Powell, Singleton, Bateman, Farrell, Partington. Subs: Bullock, Byrne, Clark, Pearce-Paul.
Tries: Singleton 2, Farrell. Goals: Smith 2. Drop goal: Hastings