Salford produced a heroic defensive effort to defeat St Helens 22-14 at the AJ Bell Stadium, securing a third straight win to climb to third in the Betfred Super League.
Skipper Michael Dobson scored two tries and four goals to ease his side to a fifth win from eight matches and end St Helens’ revival.
Leading 14-0 early in the second half, the Red Devils were rocking after Saints hit back with two tries in eight minutes but regrouped to clinch the victory despite finishing the game with 12 men.
St Helens, hammered 44-10 in the corresponding game last season, were able to restore Jonny Lomax to full-back and Matty Smith played the second match on his return to his home-town club, although he found himself with a new half-back partner when Theo Fages sustained a head injury a minute into the match.
The visitors made a promising start on attack but soon found themselves up against a brick wall as Salford kept their line intact throughout the first half for the second successive week.
With stand-off Robert Lui probing effectively, motivated perhaps by the presence of Todd Carney on the bench, the Red Devils caused an increasing amount of problems for their visitors.
When they lost winger Greg Johnson with a head injury on 25 minutes, the introduction of Carney simply added to Salford’s array of attacking threats, with Lui moved out to centre with telling effect, especially in defence.
Full-back Gareth O’Brien was brought down a couple of feet from the line and second rower George Griffin looked all on a scorer after charging through the Saints defence only to drop the ball and Salford had to settle for a penalty from Dobson to open the scoring.
It was no surprise when the Red Devils eventually scored the first try, substitute prop Craig Kopczak celebrating his new three-year contract by taking Kriss Brining’s pass to crash over for his first score of the season.
Dobson’s conversion made it 8-0 and he added a second try within three minutes of the restart, finishing off a storming break from Kopczak, with O’Brien this time kicking the conversion.
St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham switched Lomax to stand-off at half-time, with Tom Makinson reverting to full-back, in an effort to introduce a spark but it was the brute force of prop Alex Walmsley that got his side back into the game as he barged over from close range on 51 minutes.
Mark Percival added the goal to make it 14-6 and, as Saints maintained the pressure, both skipper Jon Wilkin and Walmsley were held up over the line by the Red Devils’ tigerish defence.
Salford loose forward Mark Flanagan then pulled off a try-saving tackle on Ryan Morgan but Saints were able to maintain the momentum and Lomax’s cut-out pass for Morgan over at the corner for a 59th-minute try that cut the gap to four points.
With both hookers, Logan Tomkins and Brining, off the field for concussion assessments, Salford were fast becoming depleted but they continued to defend heroically and Dobson gave them a little more breathing space with a 64th-minute penalty.
They finished the game with 12 men after Lui was sin-binned for preventing a quick restart but Dobson made sure of the points by capitalising on a handling error from Morgan to grab his second try, rendering Lomax’s late score little more than consolation for the visitors.