Castleford staged one of the great Super League escapes, with three tries and three goals from the dead-eyed Kirk Dixon in the last 10 minutes to rescue what had seemed a lost cause.
Cas were trailing 26-10 in the 70th minute when Dean Widders' back-handed flip to Dixon created the try that started the fightback. Dixon converted from the touchline, as he did from the opposite side of the field three minutes later, when Brent Sherwin's kick and Ryan McGoldrick's juggling regather set up Michael Shenton.
The Jungle was now suddenly inhospitable for a Bradford side who had thought they had the match won. In a frenetic atmosphere and with two minutes remaining, the previously quiet Rangi Chase sold a dummy and nipped through the gap, leaving Dixon a relatively simple kick for the lead.
There was still time for the Bulls to threaten to snatch it back, especially when Cas lost the ball in front of their posts in time added on, but the self-belief they have found this season helped them cling onto a victory which puts them fourth in the table.
"There is a belief here this season," said their coach, Terry Matterson. "And we know that if we keep going to the last minute we can give ourselves a chance." Indeed, this was the Tigers' fourth match in a row to be decided by two points or less.
As Steve McNamara mused, however, it was the Bulls who had the better of it for 70 minutes. They took the lead after 15 minutes through the excellent Michael Platt, only for Shenton to equalise five minutes later.
Semi Tadulala and Andy Lynch gave Bradford a 10-point lead, before a potentially match-changing moment when Paul Deacon was laid out by Shenton's tackle. There did not seem to be much wrong with it, but Gareth Hewer put the challenge on report before awarding Cas a scrum, from which they scored an important try through Dixon.
The second half saw Bradford apparently take control, first through Glenn Morrison's try and then through a penalty from Paul Sykes, kicking during Deacon's temporary absence.
Deacon's brave return saw him stretch the Castleford defence with a huge pass to one wing, preparing the way for Dave Halley to score on the other. That seemed to be enough, even though Deacon missed the conversion, but last year's winners of the wooden spoon thrive on a spot of late drama.
Dixon's 16 points made him the match-winner. "It was an outstanding goal-kicking exhibition from him again," said his coach. "Although we tried to give it back to them with a couple of lost balls at the end."
Castleford: McGoldrick; Wainwright, Dixon, Shenton, Owen; Chase, Sherwin; Sargent, Hudson, Huby, Ferres, Westerman, Faumuina. Substitutes used: Feather, Massey, Netherton, Widders.
Bradford: Platt; Sheriffe, Sykes, Nero, Tadulala; Jeffries, Deacon; Burgess, Newton, Lynch, Menzies, Morrison, Langley. Substitutes used: Halley, Worrincy, Kopczak, Scruton.
Referee: G.Hewer (Whitehaven).Reuse content