Halifax will head to Toulouse for next Saturday’s pivotal Championship showdown level on points with the fourth-placed French side after beating Bradford 20-18 in Sunday’s derby at the Shay.
Despite their relatively modest margin of victory, Richard Marshall’s side, who ran onto the field flanked by members of the club’s 1987 Challenge Cup winning side, were impressive for long spells against their local rivals, leading 20-6 with only two minutes left to play.
Winger Ethan Ryan and forward Ted Chapelhow touched down for the Bulls in the final seconds, Oscar Thomas converting both, with the visitors’ desperate last throw of the dice only ending when Fax full back Will Sharp - arguably the game’s outstanding individual - mopped up a loose pass on his own 40 metre line on the final play of the afternoon.
With Toulouse losing a second successive game, at Oldham, it means Fax’s on-off top four push, which has looked in tatters more than once, is still very much alive with three matches remaining.
The home side might have scored inside three minutes, back rower Ed Barber putting a scoring ball down from Jake Bibby on the line after sparking the move that created the chance in the first place.
And they were over the line again almost immediately, Steve Tyrer touching down a Josh Wood kick, only for the touch judge to rule him offside.
The Bulls were hanging on in defence, with winger Ed Chamberlain twice having to knock down potential scoring passes from Tyrer.
The try, when it came, was worth the wait; Wood, who looked sharp from the start, slipping Sharp into half a gap then looping round to take the full back’s offload and stepping past a couple of defenders to score.
Tyrer converted for a 6-0 lead and a couple of minutes later Fax were in again, young hooker Brandon Moore bursting out of dummy half and centre Ben Heaton running hard and straight to score by the posts.
Tyrer made it 12-0 and then 14-0 with an easy penalty and the home side might have scored again before the break, Barber going himself when Heaton and Bibby looked better placed outside him.
The second half was a scrappier affair from the start and, eventually, it was Bradford who came up with some points, hooker Vila Halafihi slipping out of Sharp’s grasp to score by the posts in the 55th minute, Thomas’ conversion making it 14-6.
Halifax turned up the heat in and attack and defence and were denied what would have been a brilliant try when Thomas just did enough to force Bibby onto the sideline as the winger went for the corner.
But they gave themselves a cushion soon after, prop Daniel Murray charging over and Tyrer kicking his 2,000th career point to put Fax 20-6 up.
That was how it stayed until the final two minutes.
Halifax: Sharp; Bibby, Tyrer, Heaton, Worrincy; Murrell, Wood; Cahalane, Moore, Murray, Grady, Barber, Grix. Subs: Morris, Walne, Boyle, Kaye
Bulls: Thomas; Chamberlain, Mendeika, Gibson, Ryan; Keyes, Butterworth; Oledzki, Hallas, Magrin, Bentley, Smith, Roche. Subs: Peltier, Kirk, Chapelhow, Halafihi
Referee: Nick Bennett