Warrington Wolves 21 Hull KR 14: One injury too many for Robins as rivals prove play-off credentials
On the evidence of this pulsating, high-intensity clash, both sides will be involved in the big games at the end of the Super League season.
Hull KR defied their injury issues to race into a 12-0 lead but the loss of Matt Parcell to a concussion was one blow too many to a spine already shorn of Lachlan Coote, Jordan Abdull and Rowan Milnes.
Sluggish in the early stages, Warrington Wolves showed why they are leading the competition by storming back to take advantage of KR's travails.
The result ended the Robins' six-match winning run but there was no disgrace in defeat.
Emergency full-back Ethan Ryan celebrated his 27th birthday with the opening try and there were gutsy performances across the park.
Hull KR are making something of a habit of raiding the Halliwell Jones Stadium with depleted sides and for a while it looked like they were going to do it again.
Rovers fired two early warning shots, Ryan Hall making a half-break before Corey Hall threatened to find a way through on the same left edge.
Warrington were struggling to match Hull KR's speed and intensity with the visitors feeding off the energy generated from the away end.
Whereas the Wolves lacked respect for the ball in an error-strewn start, the Robins were offloading and making metres at will.
It felt like a matter of time before Willie Peters' side broke the deadlock – and the opening try was worth the wait.
Former Warrington prop George King laid the groundwork with a charging run and quick play the ball before handing the floor to James Batchelor.
The Wakefield Trinity academy product is best known for his tireless work-rate but he showed another side to his game with one of the offloads of the season, a sensational flick pass to put a flying Ryan over.
Rovers were playing with unbridled confidence and had a second try when Kane Linnett sauntered over from Mikey Lewis' short ball.
Lewis knocked over the conversion to make it 12-0 and there was a palpable sense of restlessness from the natives.
That all changed when Sam Kasiano and Matt Dufty were introduced by Daryl Powell.
Kasiano set about punching holes in the Hull KR defence and the lively Dufty caused the visitors issues out wide.
The turning point came when Josh McGuire dragged down Elliot Minchella just short of the line following a burst through the middle by Jez Litten.
McGuire was becoming increasingly influential, the Australian forward taking advantage of a fumble by Lewis from Danny Walker's grubber kick to get Warrington back in the game before the break.
Rovers suffered a major blow when a disgruntled Parcell was left nursing a head injury, with the hooker gesturing that he had been taken out by a forearm as he trudged off.
After denying Joe Philbin with a desperate last-ditch effort led by Ryan, Rovers had the chance to regroup at half-time.
But they became increasingly ragged after the interval, conceding a series of penalties to invite Warrington pressure.
The Robins were duly punished for their indiscipline when Ben Currie dummied his way through a huge hole to coast over under the posts.
Stefan Ratchford made it 12-12 from in front to set up a grandstand finish in a tetchy contest.
Referee Ben Thaler took centre stage as the sides traded verbals and infringements.
Rovers got on the right side of Thaler to win back-to-back penalties, the second of which knocked over by Lewis to nudge the visitors back ahead with 24 minutes to go.
Ratchford returned serve to level the scores up once again before Lewis hit the post from a tight angle following a ruck infringement.
Matty Russell took a bang to his head after pouncing on the loose ball and won a penalty which the Robins failed to recover from.
Another penalty gave Ratchford the chance to put Warrington ahead for the first time with 11 minutes to go and they did not give KR a sniff in the closing stages.
Matty Ashton finished acrobatically in the corner and Rovers knew their race was run when George Williams knocked over a drop goal.
Warrington Wolves: Thewlis, Russell, Mata'utia, Ratchford, Ashton, Williams, Drinkwater, Bullock, Walker, Vaughan, Currie, McGuire, Harrison. Substitutes: Dufty, Clark, Kasiano, Philbin.
Hull KR: Ryan, Kenny-Dowall, Opacic, C Hall, R Hall, Litten, Lewis, Hadley, Parcell, King, Batchelor, Linnett, Minchella. Substitutes: Sue, Wood, Kennedy, Luckley.
Referee: Ben Thaler.