DEPLETED Castleford Tigers went close to pulling off a shock win over St Helens in Monday's Super League game at Probiz Coliseum.
The injury-hit Tigers, without six regulars, gave a magnificent account of themselves in an 18-12 defeat.
St Helens survived a late Castleford onslaught to deny Ian Millward's men a third successive win.
Brett Ferres scored two tries and Kirk Dixon (pictured) kicked two goals as the Tigers more than matched Saints for long periods.
There was little to separate the teams in a hard-fought first-half.
St Helens made a strong start and Lance Hohaia was stopped narrowly short of the line after a superb 40-20 from James Roby in the opening minute.
Yet the visitors were guilty of a number of handling errors thereafter, which allowed Castleford to enjoy a spell of pressure.
After Tony Puletua had been forced off with a shoulder injury, Saints roused themselves and Ade Gardner came close to crossing following fine work from Hohaia and Soliola.
The Tigers remained a threat, with Adam Milner excelling on his return to the side, but it was Gardner who broke the deadlock, the vastly experienced winger going over in the corner after Wheeler's initial break had opened up a gap.
Castleford briefly turned the tables, Dixon converting a Ferres try that had been laid on by Ryan McGoldrick.
But Saints hit back almost immediately, the powerful Soliola collecting a short pass from Roby before burrowing over.
Wheeler missed a second attempt at goal and was guilty of further errors; he had a kick charged down and also knocked on.
Yet a dazzling break from the half-back almost led to a third Saints try, before Castleford rallied again and saw Jonathan Walker held up over the line.
There was another blow for the away side at the start of the second half when Gardner was carried off.
Castleford's first half efforts appeared to be catching up with them, however, and when they coughed up possession cheaply inside their own half, Shenton burst through to make it 12-6, Wheeler once again failing with the resulting conversion attempt.
Meli looked to have made the game safe soon after as he intercepted McGoldrick's pass before sprinting the length of the field for his side's fourth score.
Roby took over kicking duties and made no mistake, but Saints were forced to endure one last flourish from Castleford, who reduced their arrears when Ferres crossed again after a concerted spell of home pressure.
The Tigers, roared on by an enthusiastic crowd, dominated the closing stages, but Saints held on.