St Helens came from 10-6 down to make it nine wins from their last 10 matches with a 40-16 rout of injury-hit Castleford to clinch a top-four finish in Super League.
Keiron Cunningham’s men ran in seven tries to three to climb above Wigan into third place on points difference and keep alive their hopes of a home semi-final.
Boosted by the return of influential Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh, Saints broke the Tigers’ resistance with three tries from their substitutes in a decisive nine-minute spell in the second quarter of the match.
It was their third win of the season over Castleford, who are still seeking their first away win over St Helens since 1992 after a brave but fruitless battle against the odds.
With 13 regulars on the injury list, coach Daryl Powell was forced to give a debut to academy forward Brandon Douglas and he had winger Paddy Flynn playing at prop for most of the game.
It was a particularly disappointing evening for winger Denny Solomona, who endured a frustrating time as he eyed the one try he needs to equal Lesley Vainikolo’s regular Super League season record of 36 and came off five minutes from the end after limping through most of the second half.
Yet it started so promisingly for the Yorkshiremen, with full-back Luke Dorn slicing through the Saints defence for the game’s opening try and sending winger Ryan Hampshire over for a second with a cut-out pass on 16 minutes.
In between those scores, Saints winger Adam Swift collected Jon Wilkin’s kick to get centre Matty Fleming over for an equalising try and the home side began to get on top in the second quarter, with three of their four substitutes crossing for tries that turned the game on its head.
Morgan Knowles took James Roby’s short pass to crash over on 28 minutes and prop Kyle Amor did likewise four minutes later after Dorn had spilled Wilkin’s high ball in the rain.
The Tigers were already on the back foot when stand-off Rangi Chase was sin-binned five minutes before half-time for a trip on full-back Jonny Lomax and St Helens immediately made the extra man count, with Luke Thompson forcing his way over for their fourth try of the half.
Walsh’s fourth goal made it 24-10 and Saints had a chance to close the game out in the early stages of the second half when stand-off Jordan Turner was the first to reach Walsh’s high kick to the line but was unable to ground the ball.
Castleford thought they had clawed their way back when centre Ben Crooks touched down Chase’s grubber kick but the try was disallowed for a knock-on in the build-up and with that the visitors’ last chance disappeared.
Saints forced successive goal-line drop-outs and the pressure told on the hour when prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook forced his way through a tiring defence for his side’s fifth try.
A break out of defence by Lomax then created the position for Swift to dive over at the corner for his 15th try of the season and, although Will Maher scored a consolation try for Castleford on 77 minutes, there was still time for Saints prop Alex Walmsley to romp over from 10 metres out to wrap up the scoring.