This was the day when the Bulls were supposed to run out of steam, but they were the stronger side throughout a gruelling contest and had the players to come up with the crucial contributions.
Leon Pryce, one of the men playing his final match for the club, scored their first try and won the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match for a performance that threatened Leeds from start to finish.
"I love Bradford and I can't put into words what it means to me to finish like this," said Pryce, who will play his rugby with St Helens next season.
Lesley Vainikolo did not get the clear running opportunities he so often thrives on, but he went looking for work and came up with the other Bradford try, while the leadership of Jamie Peacock, a Leeds player next year, helped Bradford hold their defence together.
The stability that accompanied the Grand Final preparations of these two old rivals was reflected in both fielding unchanged sides, which meant that two stalwarts, Barrie McDermott and Robbie Paul, started their farewell appearances on the bench.
Leeds put themselves under pressure from the start with Willie Poching knocking on from the kick-off. Brad Meyers crossed the Leeds line without being able to ground the ball.
Bradford lost Paul Johnson temporarily when a tackle on Richard Mathers left him feeling groggy, and showed their own nerves when Michael Withers fumbled Kevin Sinfield's kick to give Leeds a first chance.
McDermott was given a thunderous welcome from Leeds' supporters when he came into the game. His first tackle was not as welcome, laying out his old mate Adrian Morley and allowing Paul Deacon to register the first two points.
It was a shortlived lead, because Leeds went to the other end on the back of a Bradford mistake and, on the last tackle, Andrew Dunemann stabbed through a cunningly angled little kick which was seized by Danny McGuire for the night's first try.
Bradford equalised through Deacon when Dunemann knocked the ball out of Ian Henderson's hands, and then took the lead by exploiting one of the half's series of unforced errors.
This time Ali Lauitiiti spilled the ball under no real pressure and, from that gifted possession, Deacon threw out a searching pass to Pryce, who juggled but recovered to beat the defence for the try.
Morley was penalised for raising his forearm to McDermott as their reunion continued and Leeds, uncharacteristically, took the two points through Sinfield's penalty. It was a fair reflection of a dour first half.
Shontayne Hape was denied a try at the start of the second because Vainikolo had impeded Mark Calderwood going for Deacon's high kick. Leeds were equally disappointed when Withers' tackle prevented Chev Walker from grounding the ball.
There was no denying Vainikolo in the 56th minute, however, Jamie Langley making inroads and the giant wing going over from dummy-half for his 34th try of the season.
Two good positions for Leeds broke down through the poor handling that plagued them as the game grew ever more tense. Bradford should have edged further ahead with a penalty after Lauitiiti's high tackle interrupted a storming run from Morley, but Deacon missed.
He also put his side in trouble by kicking straight into touch, but they survived to go up to the Stretford End and see Iestyn Harris put over a drop goal for a precious extra point.
Leeds battered away but the cutting edge was missing and their coach, Tony Smith, admitted: "They deserve their win tonight. They were hungrier than us and they took their opportunities."
Leeds: Mathers; Calderwood, Walker, McKenna, Bai; McGuire, Burrow; Bailey, Dunemann, Ward, Ellis, Poching, Sinfield (capt). Substitutes used: McDermott, Lauitiiti, Diskin, Jones-Buchanan.
Bradford: Withers; L Pryce, B Harris, Hape, Vainikolo; I Harris, Deacon; Peacock, Henderson, Fielden, Meyers, Johnson, Radford. Substitutes used: Paul, Vagana, Langley, Morley.
Referee: A Klein (London).Reuse content