Super 8s: St Helens 16-26 Wigan Warriors
|St Helens (4) 16|
|Tries: Barba, Taia, Makinson Goals: Percival 2|
|Wigan (14) 26|
|Tries: Gildart 2, Gelling, Williams Goals: Williams 5|
Wigan brushed off their Challenge Cup final defeat to beat local rivals St Helens and boost their play-off hopes.
Oliver Gildart, a try-scorer in Wigan's 18-14 defeat by Hull FC at Wembley, went over twice in the opening stages as the visitors had a 14-point lead.
Ben Barba's debut try closed the gap but Wigan led 14-4 at half-time.
Two quick tries from Anthony Gelling and George Williams put Wigan in charge, before Zeb Taia and Tommy Makinson ensured a tense finish.
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Wigan's victory continued a run of the Wembley losers winning their next Super League match, which now stands at nine seasons in a row, and saw them jump above St Helens into fifth in the table, a point behind Wakefield, who beat Salford.
Much of the pre-match excitement for St Helens revolved around the appearance of Barba, whose debut for the club had been delayed because of a 12-match suspension for testing positive for cocaine in late 2016 when playing in the NRL.
The full-back's first touch of the ball was greeted by a massive roar from the St Helens crowd as he gained valuable metres, but his slightly wayward pass to Ryan Morgan allowed Joe Burgess to pounce and send Gildart free for his second try inside the first five minutes.
Barba made amends in the 21st minute when he jinked through on the left-hand side and grounded the ball under the challenge of three Wigan players.
Gelling and Williams, who scored 14 points on his 100th appearance for Wigan, grabbed two tries in as many minutes as the visitors looked to have the game won early in the second half.
Taia and Makinson then scored twice in three minutes to give the hosts some hope of a dramatic turnaround, but Wigan hung on for a vital victory.
St Helens slip to sixth in the Super 8s and are now three points behind a play-off place with three games remaining.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
"It was not a great start but I thought we recovered. We clawed our way back but missed a few chances towards the end of the first half which hurt us in the end.
"We needed to win but we didn't, so now we're in a situation where we're relying on other teams. All we can do is concentrate on winning at Wakefield next week."
"I thought Ben (Barba) was good. He hadn't played for a long time but he tried hard for the 80 minutes and he'll definitely be better for the run."
Wigan coach Shaun Wane:
"I'm very pleased. This is a great place to come and get a win, especially when you're under a fair bit of pressure.
"We've had illness throughout the camp this week. To show that toughness out there is outstanding, I'm very proud of them.
"Everything was going for St Helens today. They've talked about this for two weeks and had the weekend off - and they had a great NRL player coming in. It was an outstanding win."
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Smith, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Wilkin, Knowles.
Replacements: Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Peyroux.
Wigan: S. Tomkins, Marshall, Gelling, Gildart, Burgess, Williams, Leuluai, Nuuausala, McIlorum, Clubb, Bateman, Farrell, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Powell, Tautai, Isa, Wells.
Referee: Robert Hicks (RFL).