Hull FC finally secured their semi-final spot with an eight-try demolition of a weakened Castleford Tigers side.
But even at full strength, the league leaders would have had problems against this Hull side in pulsating form.
Jake Connor scored a sensational hat-trick, while man-of-the-match Jamie Shaul bagged a brace to keep FC in with a chance of doing the double for the first time since Leeds in 2015.
Ringing in seven changes from last week’s win over Wigan, Daryl Powell’s team never got a foothold in the game and both Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd were pivotal in inflicting Castleford’s worst defeat of the season.
The Black and Whites came out fighting as they played for their semi-final lives, scoring two tries in quick succession to set the tone for what was to come.
Missing nine first-team players, Castleford looked in disarray as FC took full advantage with Kelly and Connor giving them a 10-0 lead.
Kelly marked his Man of Steel nomination by drawing first blood in the ninth minute. It was a well-worked try to set Hull on their way, passing through five sets of hands before the stand-off dotted down next to the posts.
And they were on the score board again just two minutes later when Kelly lofted a perfectly-weighted kick for Connor to collect and go over in the right-hand corner. Sneyd was unable to add the extras.
Castleford then enjoyed three penalties to move them up the field but they could not capitalise on the advantage.
While the Tigers’ new line-up struggled to gel, Hull continued to dominate in a faultless start and were almost in again when Danny Houghton crossed the whitewash, but was adjudged to have knocked on by the video referee as he did so.
The hooker did get his rewards moments later following a mistake from debutant Tuoyo Egodo. The young winger knocked on and Sneyd, on the first tackle from the resulting kick, spotted a gap in the Castleford defence and dinked a neat grubber for Houghton to latch onto.
Hull had made the perfect start, racing into a 16-0 lead, and it was only a controversial decision that pulled Castleford back into it.
It looked as though Houghton had kicked a lovely 40/20 to put FC into a potential try-scoring position, but Ben Thaler agreed that Greg Eden had kept the ball in play.
Castleford then scooted up field and Egodo made up for his earlier mistakes and crossed in the corner for the first of his tries, with Paul McShane showing his kicking credentials from the sideline.
However, their joy was short-lived when Shaul scored his 16th try of the season after a darting run from just behind the half-way line.
And they were over again a minute before half time, making light work of the Tigers’ makeshift defence as Connor bagged his second to send Hull into the break 22 points in the ascendancy.
Castleford needed to score first in the second period to mount any sort of comeback, and it was Egodo who bagged his hat-trick just eight minutes after the restart.
As we have learnt throughout the season – never write the Tigers off. Egodo’s two quick tries brought Cas back into the game at 16-28 and an uncharacteristic knock on from Shaul could have drawn them closer, but again they couldn’t make use of the mistake.
Alex Foster conceded another penalty and while Castleford didn’t take advantage moments before – Hull did. Connor bagged his hat-trick and Sneyd marked 1000 Super League points from the resulting kick.
The league leaders became increasingly frustrated and Hull soon put the game to bed, racking up 48 points – the most points Castleford have shipped this season.
Shaul bagged a brace while Carlos Tuimavave also got on the scoresheet in what was a convincing victory that will give Hull the confidence heading into their semi-final clash with Leeds next week.