Bradford's slim mathematical chance of a place in the play-offs is over, but only after a nip and tuck affair at Castleford.
Led by an intermittently brilliant performance by Rangi Chase, with a memorable solo try and a hand or foot in most of the others, the Tigers frequently looked as though they had taken firm control. However, a Bradford side hampered all season by having only half their cash allocation, because of the failings of a previous regime, kept hauling them back.
It was very much a case of what might have been for both sides this season. The Bulls will wonder what they could have done with a full share of funding, while Cas will wish they had had Justin Carney available all year to capitalise on Chase's creativity. In a remarkable effort for a winger, he has been suspended no fewer than three times this season. When on the field he has often played like he did today, with a brilliant try and an explosive quality every time he had the ball.
Bradford, the side with something – in theory – to play for, flattered to deceive in the first few minutes, when they could have had several tries, but managed just one, through Jarrod Sammut.
Cas seemed to be taking firm command, with tries from Kirk Dixon, Adam Milner and Carney, but Brett Kearney hit back for the Bulls. Just before half-time, Milner got his second from Daryl Clark's break.
Nick Scruton's footwork brought Bradford the first try of the second half, but Chase's solo, followed by Jordan Tansey, put Cas back in the driving seat.
Sammut's second and Charlie Martin being sent to the sin bin ensured that the match would stay frantic to the finish, especially after Danny Addy touched down for the Bulls with five minutes to play. Jamie Ellis's effort, however, finally made it safe for Cas.
"It was a crazy game," said the Cas coach, Daryl Powell. "When we went down to 12 men, it made it very difficult for us."
Bradford's Francis Cummins refused to blame the club's finances for the failure to emulate last season's run into the play-offs. "We haven't even talked about what we've got and haven't got," he said. "We've been in a position to win plenty of games that we've thrown away."
Another of the season's "nearly" sides, Wakefield, were beaten 26-12 by improving St Helens.
Castleford Tansey; Clare, Shenton, Dixon, Carney; Chase, Ellis; Boyle, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey. Substitutes used Owen, Clark, Fleming, Martin.
Bradford Kearney; Kear, Purtell, Lulia, Foster; Sammut, Addy; Scruton, Diskin, Manuokafoa, Olbison, Blythe, Walker. Substitutes used Langley, Donaldson, O'Brien, Evans.
Referee R Hicks.