Saints edged Hull FC 25-22 in a pulsating Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie on Sunday afternoon.
Mark Percival and Regan Grace both scored braces to set up a Semi Final date with Catalans in Bolton.
But they were pushed all the way by the cup holders who refused to give up their crown without a fight.
In fact, this tie wasn’t settled until the last play of the game against a team that had been down to 11 men at one point, and had three sinbinned.
Percival got Saints underway after a tense first ten minutes.
Hull had already made a couple of half breaks before Saints took advantage when the centre crossed after some great interchange play.
It got better immediately too – the visitors failing to send the restart more than 10 yards – and Grace making the most of the cut out pass from Jonny Lomax to dive in the corner.
Saints were good for their 10-0 lead but within the blink of an eye Hull had gone ahead.
Firstly, Albert Kelly darted along the line to step inside under the posts and then Chris Green used all his strength to muscle over.
All the momentum had swung the holders way – but they were soon to rue their ill-discipline.
Danny Houghton was first to go to the bin for a ‘crusher’ on Danny Richardson and within a minute, Danny Washbrook was sent the same way for leaving his knee in the tackle on two occasions.
Two men to the good Saints recorded 12 points and took charge of the contest.
Grace’s second came after Richardson’s chip was tipped back and the winger spun out of a tackle – Percival then grabbing his brace as he danced through the cover on the next set.
Danny Richardson popped over a one-pointer for 23-12 at half time, and Saints should have increased their advantage early in the second.
A lovely tip pass from Percival saw Grace take off down the left.
With the defence closing in, he chipped for Lomax but the full back was hauled down just before the line.
Zeb Taia then dove over from dummy half – when perhaps a pass would have been the better option – and lost the ball.
Saints made back to back goal-line stands in the 50th minute, but on their third set, the Airlie Birds made the pressure pay – Taylor grabbing his second under the posts.
Both teams were visibly wilting in the hot sun as the tension cranked up a notch but Hull’s discipline cost them again as Masimbaashe Matongo was sent to the bin for hitting Jonny Lomax late and from behind after he’d passed the ball.
Richardson converted the penalty to make it a seven-point game, yet his teammates couldn’t unlock the Hull defence with a man advantage.
They missed two opportunities down the left hand side to kill the game off – and they were made to regret that execution as Makim Miloudi jumped highest on a crossfield kick to make it game on with 10 to play.
Saints couldn’t convert further chances as the game came to a close but they left Hull needing to go the length with 60 seconds remaining.
They made 50 from a couple of tackles to set nerves on edge amongst the home faithful – but a forward pass from the play the ball with 10 seconds left meant it was game over.
Justin Holbrook was relieved as Saints made it through to the semi finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
“My overriding emotion is relief, I think that it a fair answer to give,” he said after the clash. “They kept on coming and you could see why they have won it for the last two years. We were ready to take control but never had it.
“I have to give Hull a massive rap for the way they played. They stuck it to us and I was happy to come away with the win.
“When they lost a few to the bin we panicked a bit and probably expected to put them away. I thought our game management struggled at times – particularly at the back end of the second half in the as we began trying kick well clear of a good opposition. We have to be a little more patient in that area.
“On the flip side I am happy with how hard we worked to win. We only won by three but I didn’t feel too threatened on our own line at the end of the game.
“We will learn a lot from that but I am just relieved as they are a good opposition. I thought we created a lot of things but didn’t convert as we might have done in recent weeks.
“Regan Grace was outstanding; he had his best game for us today.”
He continued: “We can now look forward to the semi final. It is a long way away though. Catalans are improving a lot and will have that time to gel further. Until then I am happy to still be alive in the comp and happy to be in the semi final.”
Next up for Saints are Hull KR this coming Friday June 8 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Tickets for the game are now on sale from the Ticket Office, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.
Tries: Percival (2), Grace (2),
Goals: Richardson (4 from 5)
Tries: Kelly, Green, Taylor, Miloudi
Goals: Connor (3 from 4)
Hull FC: 5
REF: Ben Thaler
23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 14. Luke Douglas 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Morgan Knowles.
1. Jamie Shaul; 2. Bureta Faraimo, 24. Jack Logan, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 28. Hakim Miloudi; 6. Albert Kelly, 14. Jake Connor; 15. Chris Green, 9. Danny Houghton, 8. Scott Taylor, 12. Mark Minichiello, 21. Sika Manu, 11. Dean Hadley.
Subs: 17. Danny Washbrook, 20. Brad Fash, 23. Mickey Paea, 29. Masimbaashe Matongo.