Castleford Tigers ran in eight tries, but gave their fans a nail-biting time before clinching a 46-34 victory over Bradford Bulls at the Wish Communications Stadium.
A hugely entertaining game saw both sides show thrilling attacking skills before the Tigers finally clinched their win with a last minute Jamie Ellis try.
At 40-24 with just over 10 minutes to play it looked like Cas were home and dry to close the gap to within two points of ninth-placed Bradford, but the Bulls gave them a real scare with two late tries and came within inches of another to level the scores only for Craig Huby to make a crucial tackle on Brett Kearney.
Earlier in the game Castleford shrugged off a slow start to lead 22-12 at half-time.
The visitors were good value for their early 6-0 lead given them by Jarrod Sammut’s try after he did well to pick up a pass by Manase Manuokafoa.
They could have had more tries with Jamie Foster superbly tackled touch in goal by Kirk Dixon and Jordan Tansey and Sammut having another effort ruled out for a forward pass by Foster.
But the game changed once Dixon leaped high to take Rangi Chase’s kick and got the ball down over the line for an unconverted try.
Only a high tackle prevented Ryan Boyle from scoring then Chase and Grant Millington combined to send Adam Milner over for a try goaled by Dixon, who in the process was collecting his 1,000th career point.
Within two minutes Cas had another try after Chase and Michael Shenton broke down the left and Justin Carney had the speed to finish off a fine move.
Dixon’s goal made it 16-6, but back came the Bulls with Brett Kearney going over from close range after they had been awarded a controversial penalty on the sixth tackle for a high tackle on Sammut who appeared to have slipped.
The Tigers had the last word in the half, however, with the final play when Chase put Daryl Clark in space and his break was well finished by Milner. The conversion by Dixon made it 22-12.
Cas could not have made a much worse start to the second half as Tansey knocked on from the kick-off and within two minutes Nick Scruton had ploughed his way over for a try goaled by Foster.
They dug in, though, and after Milner was held up over the line they increased the lead again as Chase came up with a bit of magic for a solo try after dummying his way past almost half the Bulls team. Dixon’s goal made it 28-18.
It got even better on 55 minutes when Chase was superb again, coming up with a perfect grubber kick for Tansey to follow up and score a try converted by Dixon.
The joy lasted a minute only as the ball was allowed to bounce from the restart and Sammut gathered to race over for a shock score to which Foster tagged on the extras.
The hosts went down to 12 men when youngster Charlie Martin was sin-binned for preventing a restart by tackling Foster after the Bulls player had caught the ball in his in-goal area, but the response was great with Nathan Massey powerfully blasting his way over the line from Huby’s pass.
Dixon’s goal looked to have put the game to bed at 40-24, but with the extra man Bradford chanced their arm and came up with two tries in two minutes. First, Elliot Kear was adjudged to have touched the ball down in the corner despite looking to have been tackled in touch then Danny Addy finished a fine move started by Sammut’s kick and chase. With Foster kicking a conversion there was only six points in it.
Bradford surged into attack again and only Huby’s fantastic tackle on Kearney when he seemed certain to score prevented the scores being levelled.
But with what turned out to be the last play of the game Foster spilled the ball after collecting a loose Tigers pass and Ellis gratefully accepted the present to score the 14th try of the afternoon. Dixon put the icing on the cake with a touchline effort to take his own personal tally to 18 points in the game.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Dixon, Milner 2, Carney, Chase, Tansey, Massey, Ellis; goals Dixon 7. Bradford: Tries Sammut 2, Kearney, Scruton, Kear, Addy; goals Foster 5.
Castleford: Tansey; Clare, Shenton, Dixon, Carney; Chase, Ellis; Boyle, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey. Subs: Owen, Clark, Fleming, Martin.
Bradford: Kearney; Kear, Purtell, Lulia, Foster; Sammut. Addy; Scruton, Diskin, Manuokafoa, Olbison, Blythe, Walker. Subs: Langley, Donaldson, O’Brien, Evans.
Referee: Robert Hicks.