WINGER Tommmy Makinson’s hat-trick of tries helped St Helens prick Castleford’s bubble and quell talk of a crisis at Langtree Park.
Saints had been put on a warning by angry chairman Eamonn McManus after last week’s home defeat by Hull KR left them in serious danger of missing out on the Super League play-offs for the first time.
Amid sweltering temperatures, the Tigers turned the heat up on their visitors by racing into a 10-0 lead after 18 minutes and the early loss of England hooker James Roby with an ankle injury looked to have compounded their misery.
But Nathan Brown’s men hit back with Makinson’s first try on 22 minutes and he added two more in the second half to clinch an 11th consecutive win over Castleford and condemn them to a first home defeat for three months.
The match was played in four quarters to allow the players more water breaks on the hottest day of the year.
Saints captain Paul Wellens began the game on the bench but was introduced after only 17 minutes when Roby went off and within a minute watched his side fall 10-0 behind.
Winger Richard Owen had opened the scoring with a seventh-minute try, finishing off a break by forward Grant Millington, and full-back Jordan Tansey added a second shortly after the first water break.
Saints were unable to hold the ball long enough to complete their sets and it took a couple of opportunist tries to keep them in contention.
Scrum-half Gareth O’Brien, starting his second spell on loan from Warrington, kicked over the Castleford defence to get Makinson over for his first try.
But when makeshift stand-off Weller Hauraki touched down Chase’s kick for Castleford’s third try on 25 minutes and Kirk Dixon kicked his second goal, the home side were firmly in control at 16-6.
However, full-back Jonny Lomax shrugged off a couple of heavy tackles to go through defender Jordan Thompson two minutes before the break to bring Saints back into it and they scored two more tries within 10 minutes of the re-start.
Impressive forward replacement Alex Walmsley offloaded from the tackle to create the space for Wellens to get prop Luke Thompson crashing over and then Lomax got centre Jordan Turner skipping through the Castleford defence for a fourth try.
O’Brien maintained his accuracy with his fourth goal to put Saints into a somewhat flattering 24-16 lead.
Blockbusting winger Justin Carney, back from a third suspension of his debut season, gave the Tigers renewed hope on 54 minutes when he produced a trademark finish to register his 12th try in 14 Super League appearances.
But Dixon missed his second kick to leave the home side trailing by four points and Makinson wrapped up the victory with two tries in six minutes to complete his hat-trick.
First he swooped on Tansey’s pass intended for Carney and sprinted 90 metres to touch down and then collected team-mate Turner’s pass by his bootlaces to register his third try.
Chase grabbed a fifth try for the Tigers five minutes before the end but Walmsley crashed over for a richly-deserved try just before the end and O’Brien put the finishing touches to a precious win with his sixth goal from seven attempts.