A last-gasp try by Jack Hughes denied Castleford Tigers a third straight Super 8s victory over a top three side as they lost 14-11 in a tight contest at Warrington Wolves.
It looked like Daryl Powell’s men were set to celebrate a great victory when Luke Gale landed a drop-goal with two minutes to play to make it 11-10, but Warrington got the ball back from the restart and went on to score their winning try to break Cas hearts.
The defeat almost certainly ended the Tigers’ hopes of reaching the play-offs as they are still seven points behind fourth-placed St Helens with only four games left.
Head coach Daryl Powell named an unchanged starting line-up for the trip to the Halliwell Jones Stadium, although Frankie Mariano was back on the bench in place of the injured Lee Jewitt.
Warrington benefited from several penalties to exert all the early pressure, but they were met by some strong Tigers defence and initially failed to breach the visitors’ line.
The pressure did tell, however, when former Cas player Joe Westerman broke through an attempted tackle by Larne Patrick to score the opening try.
A fine break and offload by Junior Moors got the Tigers going and Denny Solomona went close to their first score.
Cas did get their first points on the board as Gale and Luke Dorn combined well and centre Greg Minikin sent Solomona over for his 32nd Super League try of the season.
Gale kicked the touchline conversion then nudged the Tigers ahead with a penalty to make it 8-6.
More pressure followed from Warrington with three consecutive sets on the visitors’ line, but the Tigers held on to take their two-point lead into the break.
Cas increased their lead five minutes into the second half as Gale landed another penalty to make it 10-6.
That was how it stayed for much of the half with good kicks from Paul McShane and Gale keeping the hosts at arms length.
Into the final quarter Westerman was superbly stopped by Moors and Andre Savelio to deny him his second try But the Wolves did manage to score again when they created an overlap and Rhys Evans touched down in the corner, too far out for Kurt Gidley to convert, leaving the scores tied at 10-10.
Both sides went looking for a one-pointer in the closing stages with Chris Sandow sending his effort just wide for the home team.
Another attempted drop-goal by Sandow went wide, but when Cas worked their way down field Gale showed the home half-back how to do it by sending his drop-goal through the uprights.
However, it did not prove the match winner as Warrington’s short kick-off proved successful. Evans and Matty Russell both came close from the following set then Jack Hughes charged over for a try that left the Castleford contingent deflated.
Scorers - Warrington: Tries Westerman, Evans, Hughes; goal: Gidley; Castleford: Try Solomona; goals Gale 3; drop-goal Gale.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Russell, T King, Atkins, Evans; Gidley, Sandow; Hill, Clark, Sims, Currie, Hughes, Westerman. Subs: Dwyer, Westwood, G King, Bailey.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Hampshire, Crooks, Minikin, Solomona; Chase, Gale; Springer, Milner, Patrick, O Holmes, Savelio, Moors. Subs: Mariano, McShane, Cook, Millington.
Referee: Chris Kendall.