Super League champions Saints came through a tough examination at in-form Hull FC on Friday night, winning 17-10 at the KC Stadium.
Keiron Cunningham’s men were never in complete control by the Humber until a last-minute drop goal gave them a two-score lead and, had Hull not been careless in possession at crucial times, could have headed home pointless.
But as it was they got the win, thanks largely to a brilliant eye-of-the-needle finish from winger Tommy Makinson by the corner flag with 17 minutes left.
Hull had been chasing a seventh win in eight - a record dating back to and including an Easter Monday win at Saints - but in the end some resolute defence allied with some careless attacking hamstrung them.
Neither side was able to ever claim to have been on top throughout and the tough nature of the game was highlighted by the scoring not being opened until the 21st minute.
When the try came Shannon McDonnell was an unpopular scorer of it - at least amongst the home fans.
The full-back had an unhappy time at the KC Stadium after joining from Hull KR and left in acrimonious circumstances, first to Saints and then Newcastle, before returning to Saints this season.
He showed what he was worth as he went in, although all he had to do was hold on to the ball after Adam Swift patted Travis Burns’ kick back inside and McDonnell was on hand to cross, with Makinson adding the goal.
Such was the tightness of the game that Lewis Charnock was moved to turn a close-range penalty into two more points and an eight-point deficit was perhaps a little harsh on Hull, although some poor handling in their own half did not help their cause.
Leon Pryce’s care of the ball was safe as half-time approached, though, bouncing over after a Jordan Abdull offload to dot down with four minutes of the half left, continuing the trend of players scoring against their old club. Marc Sneyd tagged the extras.
Saints went four points ahead five minutes after the restart, Charnock adding another penalty - surprising as they had the option of a fourth straight set of possession - and then strong defence stopped Jordan Thompson pushing over for Hull.
Charnock missed the opportunity to make it a six-point game as he slipped when attempting to split the posts from 30 metres, and Saints’ conservatism caught up with them as Abdull forced his way over from close range to level - Sneyd off the money with the extras.
Hull were on top but a sloppy drop from Fetuli Talanoa halted them in their tracks and from the subsequent set, Burns put up a kick that Makinson got above Steve Michaels to take in and then convert by the flag, with the winger upgrading it from the line.
The home side pursued a leveller, Talanoa going close and Michaels knocking a Sneyd kick on, but Saints’ resolute defence kept them at bay, with Jordan Turner adding a last-minute one-pointer to add extra security for Saints.