Australian winger Pat Richards scored the first and last tries of the 230th Wigan-St Helens derby to ensure the Warriors took the spoils in front of a sell-out crowd of 23,861 at the DW Stadium.
England duo Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley were also among the tries as Wigan demonstrated their class, but they were forced to withstand a late fightback from their injury-hit opponents before clinching the win that knocked Catalan Dragons off the top of the Super League table.
Saints coach Nathan Brown will be proud of his players' efforts in his first Wigan-Saints derby, but will know he will need to get his big names back if they are to maintain a title challenge.
Brown made former Wigan junior Stuart Howarth the ninth Saints debutant of 2013 and the 29th player to be called on so far in just nine matches and he acquitted himself well.
Saints' unlikely half-back pairing of Paul Wellens and Jon Wilkin worked hard to inspire their team-mates, but Brown must be desperate for the return of Jonny Lomax, James Roby, Lance Hohaia and Tony Puletua.
Wigan were also well below strength, but their absentees were all among the forwards and their youthful replacements, most notably prop Dom Crosby, ensured a plentiful supply of ball for their full-strength back line, which was responsible for all but one of their five tries.
Saints created the first try-scoring opportunity after Wigan skipper Sean O'Loughlin squandered possession on his own 20-metre line, but Wellens' pass meant for his outside backs sailed straight into touch, a sure sign of rust from the veteran international following his recent injury lay-off.
The Warriors were also guilty of poor finishing, with clean breaks from Ben Flower and the impressive Matty Smith petering out, but they managed to establish an 18-0 interval lead without getting out of third gear.
Richards opened the scoring on eight minutes, finishing off a flowing move after Wigan opted to run a penalty from in front of the Saints posts, and full-back Sam Tomkins supported a break by second rower Jack Hughes to score their second try.
Saints gradually worked their way into the game and applied some pressure by forcing two goal-line drop-outs but they were hit on the counter-attack eight minutes before the break by Charnley, who gathered the ball from Josh Jones' high kick and sprinted 90 metres for a solo try.
Richards kicked all three conversions and the home side would have been further ahead had Hughes been able to hold on to Charnley's pass with the Saints line beckoning.
St Helens clearly benefited from Brown's half-time pep talk for they were far more energetic and threatening in the second half.
A break by Mark Percival, forced on to the wing in his second senior outing after Ade Gardner went off with concussion, got them into a good attacking position and replacement prop Paul Clough forced his way over from close range on the last tackle.
Percival added the conversion to make it 18-6, but Wigan looked to have made the game safe when Green timed his pass to perfection to get the 22-year-old Dom Crosby romping over for his second Super League try and Richards kicked his fourth goal.
However, Saints showed their character to stage a tremendous fightback, with veteran left winger Francis Meli leading the way.
The former Kiwi international demonstrated exceptional strength to touch down on 58 minutes before taking an overhead pass from Jordan Turner to send full-back Tom Makinson over.
Percival's second goal cut the deficit to eight points, but Richards finally ended the visitors' hopes when he squeezed over for his second try eight minutes from the end.