A third play-off final in the space of six seasons can be pencilled in for Blackpool after two goals in the last 19 minutes gave the erstwhile Second Division leaders a strong platform for Wednesday's second leg on their own Bloomfield Road ground.
The only regret for Blackpool, who experienced defeat and then victory at Wembley in 1991 and 1992, is that the uncertainty of these games need not have concerned them had their form held when the pressure began to bite in the regular season. Once they looked certain to go up automatically, but a run of six matches without a win in April allowed Oxford to steal past them.
By contrast, Bradford, who finished with nine points fewer in sixth place, carried with them considerable momentum, having won 28 points in their final 13 games. In the event, at least so far as yesterday was concerned, this was an advantage only in theory.
From the outset Blackpool looked the more assured and better organised side and while the breakthrough was relatively late in coming it always seemed likely that a Blackpool player would provide it. Bradford made a bright start when Carl Shutt's back-heel almost brought a goal in their first attack but the home side's failure to impose themselves afterwards led to tactical adjustments at half-time. For a while it seemed they might work. But no sooner had the buzz subsided among the crowd of 14,000 - almost three times Bradford's average - than Nicky Mohan was clearing off the home side's line. Within minutes of that Blackpool were in front.
Chasing a clearance from deep in defence, Tony Ellis gained possession on the left, went past Mohan and curled a fine right foot shot beyond Jonathan Gould's reach.
The second goal was of no less quality, a move begun and finished by Mark Bonner, who delivered a pass to Andy Watson wide on the right before arriving at the far post to head home the returning cross.
n Police had to contain two pitch invasions by supporters and made 12 arrests for drunk and disorderly and public order offences.
Goals: Ellis (71), Bonner (78).
Bradford City (4-3-3): Gould; Liburd (Kiwomya, h/t), Mohan, Brightwell (Huxford, h/t), Jacobs; Hamilton, Youds, Duxbury; Shutt, Stallard (Tolson, 73), Ormondroyd.
Blackpool (4-1-2-1-2): Nixon; Bryan, Bradshaw Linighan, Gouck; Morrison; Mellon, Bonner; Watson; Ellis, Preece (Quinn, 64). Substitutes not used: Philpott, Brown.
Referee: T Heilbron (Newton Aydcliffe, Co Durham).
Bookings: Bradford: Mohan. Blackpool: Mellon.
Man of the match: Nixon.
Attendance: 14,273.Reuse content