The thirteen match unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt with Reds way off the pace in a disappointing first half, and not helped by a rash moment of indiscipline from Dan Wordsworth which proved costly.
To compound the frustration, a rare four-figure crowd had turned out to back the team but it was the 50/60 Widnes fans who were celebrating at the end.
Wordsworth’s moment of madness came in an off the ball discretion with Fisnik Hajdari in the twenty fourth minute and, before the red-carded defender had reached the dressing rooms, John McGrath had scored from the subsequent free-kick with a cracking finish.
The lack of match sharpness was understandable, after two postponements left Reds without a game for three weeks, but that made the discipline aspect of the game even more important.
By the time they got into some kind of rhythm after the interval, Widnes were in control and comfortably dealt with a frustrated Reds performance.
Widnes boss, Dave Dempsey, described the win as the best since he was appointed manager and I suspect Chris Willcock will consider the setback as his most frustrating during his eight months at Borough Park.
It was almost the complete away display from Dempsey’s side – get the first goal and then defend as a unit and it worked a treat for them.
Reds rarely looked like scoring and for a team who had netted in all twenty seven league games so far, it was a significant hint to the eventual outcome.
Reuben Jerome came closest to breaking the deadlock after twenty one minutes but was overstretching in trying to meet a cross from the right and Cameron Terry wasn’t troubled.
Substitute David Symington wasn’t considered 100% fit to start but twice came near to grabbing an equaliser. His first effort, via a short corner routine, brought a fine save out of Terry whilst his second attempt hit the side netting. Connor Gaul was denied by a brilliant last ditch tackle and Scott Fenwick just couldn’t get the ball from beneath his feet when he broke through.
But the majority of the packed Derwent End felt Reds should have had a penalty when Gaul, breaking through the inside right channel, saw progress halted by a crunching Mike Burke tackle only for the officials suitably convinced the defender had fairly won the ball.
Widnes looked capable of adding to McGrath’s first half winner and three corners in quick succession caused Reds all kinds of problems. Jim Atkinson also made a fine reflex save to keep out a close range Lloyd Dean header.
And Atkinson epitomised Reds woe when he ventured up for a late corner. With a free header beckoning, he could only make part-contact and glanced the ball wide.
All Reds’ rivals collected points with Warrington Rylands taking over the leadership on the strength of a far superior goal difference.
The Cumbrians now have to put together another winning run, similar to the one just ended, if they are to win this tightest of tight title races.
Workington: Atkinson, Harrison, Clarke (Fenwick, 73), Wordsworth, Smith, Casson, Rigg (Allison, 62), Carroll, Jerome (Symington, 62), Hubbold, Gaul. Substitutes – Dixon, Leslie (not used).
Widnes: Terry, Hatton, Rigby, Hajdari, Burke, McCullough, Turner (Crawford, 90), Barrow (Adetiloye, 30), Dean, McMillan, McGrath (Jennings, 50). Substitutes – McQuade, Stephens (not used).
Referee: Chris Porter, Preston
Red card: Wordsworth (Workington)
Bookings: Carroll (Workington), Hatton, Hajdari, Turner, McMillan (Widnes)