Bradford, so often disappointing and disappointed on the big occasion, booked a place in the Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield with a display inspired by the brilliance of the Paul brothers that proved too much for Warrington to handle.
This was startling progress from the Wolves. They were competitive for around three-quarters of a minute in the Super League match between these sides last week, yet here yesterday they made a fight of it for three-quarters of the game. But a combination of the skills of Henry and Robbie and a couple of crucial decisions that went their way saw the Bulls safely through for another crack at losing the unwonted tag as the game's bridesmaids.
After six minutes last week, Warrington were 12 points behind. At the same stage yesterday, they took the lead with a Lee Briers penalty. Scott Naylor's failure to stop Jon Roper led to the offside penalty that conceded those points, but he had his revenge after 13 minutes when, following a strong run from Jamie Peacock, he took James Lowes' pass and drove low to reach the line.
Warrington continued to play with both conviction and enterprise, Briers and Tawera Nikau working a superb move to send Steve McCurrie striding away for the first of his two first-half tries. Briers landed the goal to put them four points ahead, but two penalties from Henry Paul brought the Bulls level. From the second of them, Nikau was harshly sent to the sin bin for holding down when Henry Paul seemed to have lost the ball himself.
That seemed the turning point, but Warrington's 12 men responded positively, Briers' break setting up the field position from which Allan Langer sent McCurrie through for a try which Briers converted.
With Nikau still off the pitch, however, Bradford levelled again, Robbie Paul, back after having five stitches inserted in a wound in his mouth, taking Lowes' pass and running round Langer to touch down. In the last minute of the half, Stuart Spruce took Henry Paul's pass to outflank Warrington and give the Bulls a precious lead.
The first try of the second half always looked like being crucial and both sides had their chances, Lowes and Nathan McAvoy losing the ball on the line for the Bulls and Mark Forster failing to take a difficult pass as he went for the corner.
The introduction of Bernard Dwyer worked as a talisman for Bradford, his first tackle knocking the ball out of Danny Farrar's hands for Michael Withers to score the pivotal try. A long scrutiny by the video referee produced no evidence of a knock-on. Justin Brooker went over five minutes later and although Warrington hit back with a try from Ian Knott, further tries from Peacock and Henry Paul, who kicked the last of his eight goals, underlined the Bulls' eventual superiority.
"They came out and rattled us," he said of Warrington's improvement. "We weren't expecting the onslaught, but we toughed it out for 60 minutes and in the last 20 our fitness showed through." All that remains now is for Bradford to show similar durability on the big day itself.
Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Pryce, Withers, Naylor, McAvoy; H Paul, R Paul; McDermott, Lowes, Anderson, Peacock, Forshaw, Mackay. Substitutes used: Fielden, Brooker, Dwyer, Smith.
Warrington Wolves: Penny; Hunte, Kohe-Love, Roper, Forster; Briers, Langer; Gee, Farrar, Nutley, Guisset, McCurrie, Nikau. Substitutes used: Knott, Hilton, Sibbit, Blakeley.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).Reuse content