Hull KR 28 Salford Red Devils 10: Tanguy Zenon inspires textbook Challenge Cup performance as Rovers book semi-final spot
But on the day that the Challenge Cup came to Hull, the young Frenchman produced a dazzling display to help fire the Robins into the semi-finals.
Making just his seventh appearance at the top level, Zenon was safe at the back and came up with some important contributions, chiefly a debut try that helped Rovers build up a commanding 18-0 half-time lead.
The Robins survived something of a wobble in the early stages of the second half to breathe life into their season following four straight Super League defeats.
KR – without several key men due to long-term injuries – can look forward to a third semi-final in three years after rediscovering the kind of form that hinted at a sustained Old Trafford push.
The Challenge Cup appears to be the club's best chance of silverware and Willie Peters' side delivered when it mattered to largely nullify a dangerous Salford outfit that had won eight of their previous nine games.
Zenon quickly endeared himself to the Craven Park faithful with a big tackle on Marc Sneyd following a break down the left by Tim Lafai and got full value for his intervention when Ryan Hall opened the scoring in the next set.
Mikey Lewis and Kane Linnett combined to get the ball out to Hall after Jez Litten worked the short side and the winger demonstrated his trademark power to finish in traffic.
Rovers remained on the front foot and began to find cracks in the Salford defence, George King bursting through the middle before being pulled down just short of the tryline.
The Red Devils showed glimpses of their attacking threat but KR held firm and doubled their lead when Zenon found a gap in the defensive line and exchanged passes with Tom Opacic to score under the posts.
Rovers found themselves under pressure as half-time approached following Elliot Minchella's yellow card for a high tackle but they lifted the intensity backed by a passionate home crowd.
After producing a big defensive set on their own line to keep Salford out, the 12-man Robins hit the visitors with a sucker punch just before the break.
The Red Devils scrambled to deny Lewis after a quick tap from a penalty but Rovers got them on the next play when Linnett plonked the ball down in the corner.
Milnes added another cool touchline conversion to give KR a handy lead – but it was not a safe one against a Salford side capable of posting points in double-quick time.
The Red Devils underlined their threat just four minutes into the second half, Joe Burgess putting Lafai over in the corner after smuggling the ball away in heavy traffic.
It was a blow for the Robins just as Minchella was about to return but they still had a three-score lead following Sneyd's missed conversion.
Nerves crept in as the Red Devils set up camp on the Hull KR line and got more joy moving the hosts around.
But Rovers showed the steely edge that brought them six straight wins earlier in the season to break Salford's spirit before finishing them off thanks to two big plays from captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
After relieving the pressure with a lung-busting run and winning a penalty at the end of it, the centre scored the decisive try from Milnes' smart dab through.
Hadley scored from another deft Milnes kick and not even the sight of Burgess finishing Sneyd's chip over the top with two minutes remaining could take the shine off a special cup victory.
Hull KR: Zenon, Senior, Opacic, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Lewis, Milnes, King, Litten, Luckley, Hadley, Linnett, Minchella. Substitutes: Parcell, Kennedy, Storton, Aydin.
Salford Red Devils: Brierley, Sio, Cross, Lafai, Burgess, Croft, Sneyd, Dupree, Atkin, Vuniyayawa, Watkins, Stone, Partington. Substitutes: Bourouh, Ormondroyd, Sidlow, Hellewell.
Referee: Ben Thaler.