Former Hull and Catalans Dragons second rower Setaimata Sa scored two first-half tries on debut to put Widnes on their way to a 24-16 first-round win over Wakefield in the First Utility Super League.
The Vikings enjoyed three comfortable wins over the Wildcats in 2015 but they were made to work hard this time as Brian Smith's new-look side provided glimpses of hope that they can avoid another wooden spoon.
Inevitably, the Vikings were indebted to a typically influential contribution from skipper Kevin Brown while full-back Rhys Hanbury scored a try and kicked his first goals for the club since 2013.
Hanbury made his mark from the start, collecting the ball from the kick-off to produce a scything run through the heart of the Wakefield defence, but Widnes did not make the most of the opportunity and it was the Wildcats who drew first blood.
Hooker Stuart Howarth, deputising for the injured Scott Moore, caught the visitors' defence napping with a determined run from dummy half on six minutes to score his second try for the club.
The Vikings drew level midway through the first half when Brown worked Sa over for his first try and Hanbury kicked the first of his four conversions.
There was not much to choose between the teams for most of the first half and, had debutant prop Anthony England been able to hang onto the ball as he charged for the line, Wakefield might have gone back in front.
But Widnes demonstrated some clinical finishing and seized the initiative with two further tries in an ultimately decisive four-minute spell just before the break.
Brown and hooker Lloyd White combined in neat handling move to get Hanbury over and Sa pounced on a mix-up between Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone and full-back Ben Jones-Bishop to go in for his second try.
Trailing 18-4, Wakefield got themselves back in contention three minutes into the second half when winger Reece Lyne went over out wide after smart work from second rower Jon Molloy, with Liam Finn cutting the gap to eight points with the conversion.
But a third handling error by Jones-Bishop put the home side under pressure and White made the most if it by stretching out of Anthony Tupou's tackle to score a Widnes' fourth try.
Jones-Bishop made amends on 66 minutes when he combined with Finn to get hooker Michael Sio over for Wakefield's third try and Finn kicked a third goal.
Widnes almost scored again when lively scrum-half Joe Mellor went on a jinking run but centre Charly Runicman could not take his crossfield kick with the line open.
Widnes coach Denis Betts was relieved to make a winning start after the Vikings saw off last year's Super League wooden spoonists Wakefield 24-16 at Belle Vue.
Betts' men enjoyed three easy wins over the Wildcats in 2015 but were made to work hard this time by Brian Smith's new-look Wildcats, who trailed 18-4 at the break but won the second half 12-6.
"Winning is what it was all about," Betts said. "Away from home, against a team who have given themselves a completely different look, it's a hard place to come.
"In those conditions and with the intensity from the pre-season they've had, the first thing we wanted to do was win and we've come away with a really strong performance and lots of things to get better at.
"We had two or three opportunities to really take the game away. We've not got out of third gear and it's hard to say how good we can be on attack but defensively we were really strong."
Former Hull and Catalans Dragons forward Setaimata Sa made an early mark on debut for the Vikings with two first-half tries and Betts, whose side take on reigning champions Leeds in their next match next Sunday, was also impressed with his new second rower partner Chris Houston.
"Chris Houston arrived (from Australia) last Sunday and moved into his new house yesterday but he looked like he's always been in the side," Betts said.
Skipper Kevin Brown was typically influential while full-back Rhys Hanbury contributed 12 points with a try and four goals.
Wakefield coach Brian Smith, who saved the Wildcats from relegation in 2015, was also encouraged by the performance of his side and, in particular, the five newcomers, Liam Finn, Ben Jones-Bishop, Anthony England, Tinirau Arona and Anthony Tupou.
They led 4-0 thanks to Stuart Howarth's early try and kept themselves in contention with second-half scores from Reece Lyne and Michael Sio.
"There are some obvious disappointments in the game but the pluses probably outweighed the minuses today," he said. "I won't be saying that in eight or 10 weeks time but some of the things we need to fix from today's game can be fixed.
"There were some great things that some individuals did. We owned the second half for territory and put lot of pressure on them but they dealt with that pretty well.
"We were chasing the game and finished up with abouy a dozen errors. If we can cut those in half, we will give ourselves a chance of winning, particularly if the guys continue to work hard for each other."
Source: Sporting Life