Adam Quinlan marked his first game in nine months in style today with the try that helped seal a crucial win for relegation-threatened Hull KR against high-flying Warrington Wolves.
The Australian full-back has been sidelined since September following a knee reconstruction but immediately looked sharp and alert in his comeback
However, Rovers - down in 11th - looked set for yet another painful defeat as they trailed heading into the final stages despite having a raft of opportunities.
But they finally clicked as Ben Crooks unleashed former Warrington player Will Dagger down the right touchline from inside his own half and Quinlan raced up in support to score in the 75th minute.
There was still work to be done as that only levelled the contest at 14-14 but Ryan Shaw nervelessly slotted the touchline conversion and Rovers dug deep to hold out Wolves’ final push.
It was Tony Smith’s first win since taking over as coach - and against the club that he served so well for nine years before leaving 18 months ago.
Rovers, well-served up front by the tireless Weller Hauraki, George Lawler and Mitch Garbutt, had lost 19-18 against Wigan Warriors on Sunday and, for large parts, fans sensed his could be yet another opportunity lost.
But they got the much-needed victory and how crucial it was given bottom-placed London Broncos also won, backing up last week's shock win over leaders St Helens by beating Catalans Dragons 30-12 in Perpigan this evening.
That now means London, Rovers and tenth-placed Leeds Rhinos are all locked on 12 points and Smith's side head to London for a huge game on Thursday night.
Rovers - who only lost narrowly to Warrington in the Challenge Cup here recently - had led when excellent prop Mose Masoe used brute force to angle back in and barge through Jason Clark to score in the 54th minute.
At times, it looked like it would be the only way they could score.
Shaw converted but then the winger was at fault just four minutes later as second-placed Warrington quickly wiped out that advantage.
He was caught out defensively as Blake Austin and Toby King sent Josh Charnley scurrying away down the right flank from 40m out, Dec Patton improving.
Rovers’ defence was much improved as they repelled the visitors numerous times in one set but, when they ventured down the other end, time and again they lacked ideas of their own.
They had back-to-back sets on Warrington’s line and both times each petered out to nothing with their opponents never looking troubled.
Smith’s side lacked invention and organisation around the ruck and the hooker issue that seemed to plague predecessor Tim Sheens has not gone away.
Tommy Lee was in the role today, back from injury, but he struggled to break Warrington down.
Chris Atkin was recalled at half-back but he, too, had his issues, sending a forward pass to see another promising position wasted.
Still, when it mattered most, they came good to send their fans home delirious.
In truth, Rovers should really have inflicted more damage in the first period given all the ball Warrington handed them.
The visitors - who went in 8-4 ahead - made a raft of uncharacteristic errors which served Smith’s side up with plenty of possession.
Players normally so thorough were truly off the pace; England second-row Ben Currie passing inside to no one, England Knights captain Jack Hughes spilling in contact.
Even Austin, their ‘marquee’ Australian stand-off was out of sorts, sending a restart out on the full and then spilling a routine pass with no one near him.
Unfortunately, Rovers - despite playing with real tempo especially early on - struggled for a cutting edge.
But Quinlan, their reigning player of the year back from a knee reconstruction, never looked like he had been away.
The Australian made one scything kick return in the opening exchanges and produced a couple of nice passes, too, when coming into the line, slipping Ben Crooks through in once instance.
He also dabbed in a clever chip that almost created a try but, crucially, with their best chance of the half, Quinlan then rushed his pass, wasting a obvious overlap 20m out as it slipped forward.
Instead, Warrington scored against the run of play, former Kiwi centre Bryson Goodwin beating Crooks with some footwork on halfway, fending Joel Tomkins too easily and then wrong-footing Quinlan, too, in the 24th minute.
Dec Patton converted and added a penalty when Rovers had heaped pressure on themselves, Dagger losing the ball on the 1st tackle from a 20m restart
.But Shaw slotted a penalty after the half-time hooter - and then did the business at the end, too.
* Hull KR have signed Warrington back-rower Luis Johnson on a one-month loan deal.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Dagger, Crooks, Hall, Shaw; Drinkwater, Atkin; Masoe, Lawler, Garbutt, Hauraki, Tomkins, Mulhern. Substitutes: Harrison, Keinhorst, Lee, Rooks.
Warrington Wolves: Mamo; Charnley, King, Goodwin, Johnson; Austin, Patton; Hill, Walker, Cooper, Currie, Murdoch-Masila, Hughes. Susbtitutes: Akauola, Davis, J Clark, Livett.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury)