Widnes were given a scare by Kingstone Press Championship strugglers Doncaster before sealing a place in the last 16 of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.
The Vikings trailed 12-0 after 16 minutes and could never relax before finally dashing the battling Dons’ giant-killing hopes.
Doncaster were still in contention when Widnes led only 28-24 until 15 minutes from time with 19-year-old Adam Lawton’s hat-trick proving crucial for the Vikings.
Doncaster included Paul Cooke, whose last-minute try earned Hull a famous 25-24 victory over Leeds in the 2005 Challenge Cup final, and he tormented Widnes from the start.
The Dons, bottom of the Championship with two wins from 10 games, were given 54 points start by the bookies.
The Vikings were without Gareth Hock, Cameron Phelps, Stefan Marsh, Rhys Hanbury, Ben Cross, Dave Allen, Hep Cahill, Chris Dean, Eamon O’Carroll and Ben Davies.
Cooke showed his experience to almost fire the Dons into a shock lead.
Winger Stu Sanderson took Cooke’s long pass but was bundled into touch in the corner.
Kyle Kesik also caused Widnes problems with a midfield break with Patrick Ah Van spoiling two surging Widnes runs with poor final passes. Paddy Flynn spilled Cooke’s kick to give the Dons another confidence boost and they took a 12th-minute lead with Mike Emmett dummying his way over and Sanderson landing the conversion.
It became worse for Widnes after 16 minutes with Cooke’s inside pass allowing Mick Butterfield to crash through Shaun Briscoe and Steve Pickersgill to stretch over with Sanderson tagging on the goal.
The Vikings had to wait until the 24th minute to open their account with Jack Owens collecting Joe Mellor’s long pass to send Ah Van over in the corner with the centre converting his own try to cut the gap to 12-6.
Widnes had a let-off when Emmett was held up over the line but drew level when Jon Clarke broke clear with the supporting Briscoe racing between the posts. Nathan Powley almost burrowed over for the Dons but Widnes went into an 18-12 interval lead when Lawton took a return pass from Briscoe to go over after the half-time hooter.
It was cruel luck for Doncaster who fell further behind when Mellor engineered Briscoe’s second try soon after the restart.
The visitors refused to throw in the towel and Cooke’s kick was dropped by Briscoe with the veteran stand-off sending Lee Waterman scampering through to cut the gap to 24-18.
Owens had a Widnes ‘try’ correctly disallowed for a forward pass from Kevin Brown before Flynn’s touchdown gave his side a 10-point cushion.
But sloppy Vikings defence allowed Brett Waller to go over after 63 minutes with Sanderson’s fourth conversion making it 28-24. Widnes added a sixth try through Macgraff Leuluai before Lawton bagged his second touchdown.
Lawton completed his treble before Sanderson notched a fifth try for the battling Dons who deserved their ovation at the final hooter from the Vikings’ fans.
Widnes: Briscoe, Flynn, Isa, Ah Van, Owens, K. Brown, Mellor, Pickersgill, Clarke, Kavanagh, Winterstein, Leuluai, Gerrard. Substitutes: Lawton, White, Gore, Joseph.
Doncaster: Butterfield, Sanderson, Spurr, Waterman, Tuffour, Cooke, Fawcett, Waller, Kesik, Scott, Kelly, Edwards, Emmett. Substitutes: Powley, Robinson, Castle, Leaf.
Referee: T Roby (RFL).