Lancashire 23 Yorkshire 21 LANCASHIRE stayed on course for a visit to Twickenham as they scraped home in their Bill Beaumont Cup County Championship clash at Fylde RUFC's Woodlands Memorial Ground.
In the end, it was the Red Rose side who prevailed in this meeting of the two old adversaries, but they left it late – indeed, they couldn't have left it any later to pull it out of the fire when all had looked lost.
Yorkshire, the reigning county champions, had looked for much of this contest as the most likely victors, but their hopes were finally snuffed out in the dying seconds as their resistance was finally breached.
If ever a team needed the intervention of their captain, it was Lancashire, whose cause had looked lost for most of the second half, with Yorkshire always looking in command.
And their skipper, Fylde's Steve Nutt, stepped up just when he was most needed.
The visitors had enjoyed the bulk of the possession and territory, but it was a late surge that meant heartbreak for Yorkshire.
Nutt scored the ultimate in opportunist tries, and coming as it did at the end, there was no time for a dispirited Yorkshire side to recover.
The game had not started in such promising fashion for Nutt who squandered two eary penalties.
Another penalty followed – this time Lancashire switched kickers to fly-half Alex Davies, and the change paid dividends as he stroked it over from 40 yards.
His opposite number, Chris Johnson, levelled for Yorkshire on 10 minutes with a belter of a kick.
And when Lancashire were trapped offside, Johnson's successful kick put the White Rose county 6-3 up.
Lancashire had a try ruled out when Nick Royle stepped into touch before unshipping to Matthew Williams, who crossed the line.
Lancashire worked another opening within seconds, but a careless pass by Nutt cost his side with the line begging.
A charging run by lock Matt Challinor had Lancashire in full retreat, setting up a close-in scrum that led to the game's opening try – the Yorkshire pack controlled the ball before it was off-loaded to winger Steve Parson, who had a simple walk-in try.
Lancashire's response was immediate. Daniel Baines found hooker David Ward in the clear, and the Lancashire No.2 evaded a challenge to claim a try – Davies's conversion pegged Yorkshire's lead back to a single point.
Lancashire were reduced to 14 men when prop Robert O'Donnell was sin-binned for a high tackle.
With Lancashire needing a full complement in the front row, O'Donnell's temporary departure meant a spell as replacement for Fylde's – and soon to be Newcastle's – front row Kieran Brookes, flanker Juan Crous making way.
Despite playing a man light, Lancashire managed to keep their line intact before half-time, with Yorkshire leading 11-10.
Yorkshire got off to a flier in the second half, increasing their lead with a snap try.
Lancashire failed to stop a weaving run by full-back Richard Wainwright – and the defence was still on the back-foot when winger Danny Smith made the most of a glaring overlap on the left for the simplest of tries, increasing the score to 16-10, with the conversion failing.
Johnson had a chance to put Yorkshire two scores ahead, but was unlucky to see his 45-yard effort the bar.
On 55 minutes, Davies landed a penalty to put Lancashire within three points of their rivals.
That changed on 62 minutes when Lancashire's tackling allowed a combination of Wainwright and Dave McCormack to break through far too easily – replacement Richard Horton had the time and space to crash over for a 62nd minute try. Though the conversion was missed, at 21-13 down it was all on for Lancashire to retrieve the situation.
They were in need of some inspired individualism with time running out.
A 66th minute penalty by Davies aided their cause, meaning they were a try from parity, by which time Brookes had returned for the home side as a front row replacement.
Lancashire finished with a flourish though.
Yorkshire lost winger Steve Parsons to the bin after a high tackle – from the resulting penalty and line-out Lancashire piled forward in numbers, pounding away at the Yorkshire line as the match went into stoppage-time.
In the second minute of over-time, Lancashire finally got the try they had craved, and it was Nutt who proved himself the man-of-the-moment.
After several attempts at going over the line, utilising brute force, the ball was finally spun out wide to Nutt, who high-stepped it through a pile of bodies to claim an all-or-nothing finish.
That levelled the scores at 21-21, and Nutt had enough presence of mind to cut inside and plant the ball near the posts.
That simplified Davies's conversion, and he duly added on the points to enable Lancashire to win by the skin of their teeth – and against the run of play.
For Lancashire, hooker Ward gave a terrier-like performance throughout, while centre Matthew Riley produced a similarly committed and energetic display.
Lancashire take a 100 per cent record into their next match against Northumberland at Sedgley Park on Saturday, while Yorkshire face Warwickshire at Hull Ionians' ground.