It was quite simply the most unbelievable Super League semi-final there has ever been, with Luke Gale’s golden point drop-goal putting Castleford into their first ever Grand Final.
That was only a very small part of an incredible night at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle as the England half-back returned just two weeks after his appendix operation to break Saints’ hearts.
With 15 minutes left the Tigers led 20-10 but the visitors rallied to score three tries in eight minutes and looked like they had stolen victory, but a last-gasp Gale penalty took the game into extra time.
Ryan Morgan had scored in the corner to put Saints 22-20 up but the centre then pulled back Michael Shenton in the dying seconds to allow the Tigers’ playmaker a chance to take the game beyond 80 minutes – an opportunity he took superbly.
The difference was Gale’s boot, with Saints scoring five tries to their opponents three but Marc Percival could only kick one conversion, with Man of Steel favourite Gale landing all five of his attempts at the sticks.
Gale and opposite half-back Matty Smith both missed drop-goal attempts before Castleford’s no.7 nailed his second attempt under pressure to send the packed Jungle crowd into raptures.
It took Castleford just 50 seconds to open the scoring, Zeb Taia dropped the ball from the kick off and from the scrum Luke Gale fed Zak Hardaker for the first four-pointer.
Gale kicked the conversion and added a penalty goal inside the first 10 minutes to put the Tigers 8-0 ahead.
Gradually though Saints got back in the game and they got their first try inside the first quarter as Ben Barba’s superb cut-out pass allowed Regan Grace to finish spectacularly in the corner.
The game was been played at a great pace and after Hardaker and Greg Minikin went close for the hosts, Saints took the lead before half-time as James Roby’s brilliant inside ball put Morgan Knowles over.
Marc Percival converted and Justin Holbrook’s side took a 10-8 lead in the break.
The second half carried on at the same electric pace with both producing outstanding defence and openings hard to come by.
However, when the home side did make a break they took full advantage as Greg Eden’s superb footwork got him on the outside and he passed inside for Gale to score on his return.
The Tigers’ playmaker converted his own try to put Daryl Powell’s side 14-10 up going into the final quarter.
Adam Milner then produced a try-saving tackle moments later to deny Tommy Makinson after a devastating break from Barba, before Paul McShane kicked a forty-twenty.
This set up field position and Milner gave the hosts a two-score lead as he crashed onto a short ball to just about get the ball down, Gale’s conversion making it 20-10.
But Saints weren’t done and with 10 minutes to go they gave themselves a lifeline as the ball was spread wide and again Barba assisted Makinson in the corner.
Percival missed the kick but Saints came straight back from the kick off and that man Percival crashed onto another short pass from Barba to score the visitors fourth try.
Percival missed the conversion again and Saints still trailed 20-18 going into the last five minutes.
But they took the lead with two minutes left as they kept the ball alive on the last with James Roby’s long pass putting Ryan Morgan in for what was surely the winning try.
Percival missed the kick and this would prove costly as Castleford won the ball back from the kick-off and on the last tackle, Morgan took out Shenton to give Gale the chance to level the scores.
With the hooter already sounded, Gale kicked the conversion from out wide to send the epic game into golden point extra time.
Gale and Smith both missed their first shot at a drop-goal before Gale nailed his second attempt to send the Tigers to their first ever Grand Final against Leeds or Hull next Saturday at Old Trafford.
Castleford: Hardaker, Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Massey, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Foster, McMeeken, Milner. Interchange: Millington, Moors, Cook, Springer.
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Smith, Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Knowles, Taia, Wilkin. Interchange: Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Peyroux, Fages.