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The Warriors recent revival, which had seen them win six of seven league games, looked to have eased their relegation worries but Monday?s decision by the RFL to dock them two points for salary-cap breaches in 2005 dragged them back into the mire.
They bounced back in the most impressive fashion though, inflicting on Leeds their fifth successive defeat.
Mark Calderwood, a former Rhinos player, ended up being the matchwinner, the winger scurrying over in the 63rd minute for what proved to be the decisive converted try.
Wigan?s David Vaealiki crossed, while Leeds? Ashley Gibson went over for two tries apiece in a terrific game that the visitors ultimately deserved to prevail in.
Wigan started the game in explosive fashion.
They made all the early running and, in powerhouse props Stuart Fielden and Iafeta Paleaaesina, had the two most impressive players on show.
A rewarded for their efforts came in the shape of Vaealiki?s sixth-minute try.
A smart side-step by the ubiquitous Danny Orr proved too cute for the home defence and the stand-off produced a superb diving pass two yards out to Vaealiki, who sailed over.
The Warriors? ability to offload in the tackle was causing Leeds untold problems.
Indeed, the Rhinos? only chance of the opening quarter came in the 14th minute when Shane Millard was held up by Orr over the line following a scavenging close-range scurry.
At the other end, Sean O?Loughlin looked to have grabbed the visitors? second try of the evening seven minutes later but the ball was ripped out of his hands by full-back Jordan Tansey as he was about to ground.
A four-minute period brought Leeds back into the contest.
Ali Lauitiiti made the most of a Vaealiki knock-on 10 yards out to skirt round Wigan full-back Chris Ashton and go over in the corner in the 25th minute, the try needing to be confirmed by the video referee.
And in the 29th minute, Lauitiiti?s fellow replacement, Ian Kirke, charged 50 yards, dismissing some lightweight tackling on the way, to score and put his side in the lead.
Michael Dobson?s late penalty on the hooter narrowed Wigan?s deficit to 10-6 at half-time but eight minutes into the second period, Lauitiiti and Keith Senior combined on the left flank to free winger Gibson for a clear run into the corner.
Wigan refused to crumble. They returned with a try of their own in the 52nd minute when Vaealiki saw off three would-be challengers before offloading five yards out to allow Ashton to go over for the third game in succession.
Dobson?s conversion made it 14-12 and the scrum-half then booted a penalty soon after to draw the sides level going into the final quarter.
The visitors? comeback was complete in the 63rd minute when Calderwood scored Wigan?s third try of the night.
It was the winger who made the initial 50-yard break with a typical scampering run.
From the play-the-ball, Ashton made further inroads down the right and his infield ball found Calderwood, who sprinted clear to score a try against the team who released him last year.
Dobson converted but Gibson?s touchdown from a Kevin Sinfield grubber made it a tight finish for Wigan, who just held on.
Leeds: 18 (10). Tries: Lauitiiti, Kirke, Gibson 2. Goals: Sinfield.
Wigan: 20 (6). Tries: Vaealiki, Ashton, Calderwood. Goals: Dobson 4.
Leeds: Tansey, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Gibson, Sinfield, Burrow, Bailey, Millard, Jones-Buchanan, Walker, Peacock, Ellis. Replacements: Diskin, Lauitiiti, Kirke, Thackray.
Wigan: Ashton, Calderwood, Vaealiki, McAvoy, Richards, Orr, Dobson, Fielden, Higham, Paleaaesina, Hock, Fletcher, O?Loughlin. Replacements: Radlinski, Logan, Godwin, Hansen.
Referee: Ashley Kline (RFL)