RARELY can a side have looked so disconsolate and broken at avoiding relegation.
Crucially, Hull KR achieved that primary aim last night but it spoke volumes about the players and the effort they had put in to this utterly absorbing match that they were still left so crestfallen at not winning.
That is because they had been just seconds from what would have been a brilliant victory against opponents on a seven-match winning run when Joey Lussick, the Salford Red Devils hooker, finally broke their resilient defence in the 80th minute.
Krisnan Inu converted to take the game into Golden Point extra-time and, with jaded legs, both sides pushed on further until there was just 88 seconds remaining.
Inu - who had missed the simplest of conversion attempts in normal time and also seen a drop goal charged down by Matt Parcell - held his nerve to inflict the cruel blow and secure Salford third place and a trip to Wigan Warriors in the play-offs.
Of course, as it materialised, Rovers - joint-bottom with London Broncos, Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity at the start of play - did not need the two points.
London lost at Wakefield Trinity and, thus, suffered relegation despite such a valiant year; Rovers stayed up on points difference and avoided the fate that befell them three years ago.
But out amid the cauldron of tension and noise on the AJ Bell Stadium pitch, Rovers players were utterly unaware of what was going on elsewhere.
That is at least until the PA announced at the end of 80 minutes that Wakefield were 19-0 ahead against London.
Until then they were fighting for their Super League lives here; after that they were fighting for a victory they would have thoroughly deserved.
How ironic, though, they lost in Golden Point against Salford again, just as they did in the Million Pound Game to suffer relegation in 2016.
Here, they looked on top at one point; Kane Linnett had scorched over in the 56th minute following a slick interchange down the left from Weller Hauraki and Ryan Shaw.
Linnett, who won the 2015 NRL Grand Final with North Queensland Cowboys, dived over in front of the throngs of Rovers fans to help put them 14-10 in front.
Shaw improved and added a penalty when Greg Burke - one of seven former Robins in the Salford ranks - produced a dangerous tackle on Kyle Trout.
Rovers continued to defend hard and, leading 16-10, had chance to make sure of victory.
Josh Drinkwater - playing his last game for the club - had a drop-goal charged down and then lost the ball as he tried dummying over.
Danny McGuire, poised on 999 Super League points, may have been a better option and not just because it was his 490th and final career game.
Instead, it meant Salford - on a seven-game winning run - still had a chance and Shaw was needed to desperate hack clear a probing Tui Lolohea grubber to the corner.
Linnett, too, produced a brilliant tackle to deny former Rovers centre Kris Welham before they finally broke with seconds remaining for Lussick to do what he did sending the game into extra-time.
It was a shame, in particular, for McGuire who had a mixed night in his farewell appearance.
The legendary former Leeds Rhinos player created Rovers’ opening try in typical style but ended the first half in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
Rovers had defended admirably throughout, especially in the first period when limiting their opponents to a solitary try.
With a combination of their resilience, and no little Salford’ sloppiness, it meant they led 8-4 at the break.
McGuire rolled back the years for their first try, attacking the line in centrefield near halfway and smuggling a pass out to unleash Kyle Trout who, in turn, stayed composed to send Drinkwater over in the eighth minute.
Shaw improved and, though McGuire sliced a kick into touch on the full, Salford continued to splutter.
With every mistake, another minute ticked down and their opponents grew in confidence.
That said, they made life difficult for themselves when McGuire was yellow-carded just after the half-hour mark.
Drinkwater’s poor kick was defused easily by Hastings who looked to take a swift 20m restart but ran into McGuire who had barely retreated two yards and did little to get out of the way.
In the next set, Salford capitalised, although they needed a bit of good fortune as a loose ball bounced kindly before Bibby diver over.
But Inu was off target with the touchline conversion and then the powerful former Kiwi centre lost the ball coming away from his own end.
To compound the error, he spoke out of turn to referee Chris Kendall and gifted Shaw another two points.
Salford’s discipline slipped again to offer Rovers one more chance but Hall was narrowly wide with his drop-goal effort in the last action of the half.
Salford took a 12-10 lead early in the second period when Tui Lolohea, the on-loan Leeds Rhinos, stretched over at the next play.
Inu struck an upright with the simplest of conversion attempts but put them ahead soon after with a far more difficult penalty. Eventually, he came up with the winner but Rovers can hold their heads high. And look forward to next season.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Shaw, Crooks, Linnett, Hall; McGuire, Drinkwater; Trout, Parcell, Murray, Hadley, Hauraki, Mulhern. Substitutes: Addy, Masoe, Atkin, Lawler.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds: Sio, Welham, Bibby, Inu; Lolehea, Hastings; Mossop, Tomkins, Walker, Jones, Griffin, Burke. Substitutes: Lussick, Nakubuwai, Johnson, Lannon.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)