Leeds Rhinos 42 Wigan Warriors 12: Rohan Smith's side claim statement win to send message to Super League rivals
If Leeds Rhinos go on to secure a play-off place, the emphatic win over Wigan Warriors will be looked back on as a seminal moment.
The Rhinos gave a hint of their undoubted potential against a Wigan side fresh from a 60-0 demolition of Hull FC.
Backed by a fervent crowd in their first game at Headingley in two months, Smith's team outenthused and outplayed the second-placed Warriors.
With the hugely impressive Harry Newman determined to make up for lost time on his return from suspension, the depleted Rhinos were irrepressible in the seven-try rout.
Cameron Smith produced an inspired performance in the halves in the continued absence of Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin, while Jarrod O'Connor showed he could be the answer at hooker with captain Kruise Leeming sidelined long term.
A third win in four games moves the Rhinos to within a point of sixth-placed Hull FC and gives them much-needed momentum in their pursuit of a play-off spot.
Leeds must find greater consistency in their performances if they are to reach Old Trafford but Smith's men are now armed with the belief that they can beat Super League's top sides.
Newman set the tone with a big hit on Wigan dangerman Jai Field in the opening exchanges and Leeds did not look back.
With Headingley buzzing with energy and excitement, the Rhinos hit the front as early as the sixth minute when Wigan failed to deal with Richie Myler's kick to the corner and Liam Sutcliffe pounced to touch down.
Bevan French scored seven tries against Hull to break the Super League record but he was on the receiving end of ironic cheers after dropping Cade Cust's dipping pass.
The home fans were in dreamland when Myler put James Bentley over with a nice short ball on the back of a break by the impressive O'Connor.
Rhyse Martin added the extras to both tries to make it 12-0 but Wigan soon hit back against a backdrop of boos.
Leeds pleaded with referee Liam Moore for a knock-on from French on a kick chase but their protests were ignored and they gave away a penalty out of frustration to piggyback the Warriors downfield.
In the next set, Liam Byrne kept the ball alive close to the Rhinos line to give Field the time and space to put French over in the corner.
There was a sense the tide was turning in Wigan's favour but Leeds had not read the script.
The momentum swung back the Rhinos' way after Ash Handley intercepted Cust's pass close to his own line.
Handley was hauled down by Field and Martin inexplicably opted to kick on the next play - but Leeds did not have to wait much longer for their third try.
Martin quickly atoned for his brain explosion, crashing over from close range after taking O'Connor's pass off the ruck.
Leeds went for the throat and had an unassailable lead with 32 minutes on the clock, Smith running it on the last with Wigan stretched on their right edge.
The Warriors threatened before half-time but Kai Pearce-Paul was crowded out close to the line to put the seal on a hugely committed first-half performance by the Rhinos.
A 24-6 half-time lead was not a secure one against Super League's top scorers, a side with a habit of starting fast after the interval.
But crucially Leeds scored next through Newman, the centre picking up from dummy-half and touching down after Handley was denied a length-of-the-field try by Liam Marshall.
The Rhinos had a big score in their sights but had to wait for their sixth try after the video referee spotted a knock-on by James Donaldson going for the line.
Wigan gave themselves a glimmer of hope when former player Zak Hardaker made a mess of French's kick in behind and Jake Bibby was on hand to touch down.
But Leeds were in no mood to let the Warriors back in, Brad Dwyer darting his way over from dummy-half in the week Smith confirmed he is on his way out of the club.
The last word went to Muizz Mustapha, the young prop shrugging off several defenders to score his first Super League try to the delight of the Headingley faithful.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Fusitu'a, Newman, Sutcliffe, Handley, Smith, Myler, Oledzki, O'Connor, Thompson, Bentley, Martin, Donaldson.
Substitutes: Dwyer, Aydin, Mustapha, Gannon.
Wigan Warriors: Field, French, Isa, Bibby, Marshall, Cust, Smith, Byrne, Powell, Havard, Farrell, Pearce-Paul, Smithies.
Substitutes: Ellis, Partington, Shorrocks, Cooper.