Shaw Cross Sharks gave their National Conference Division Two survival hopes a real boost last Saturday with a 32-16 victory over relegation rivals East Leeds.
The win saw Shaw Cross move above Easts into third-bottom place and they are now within three points of Clock Face Miners with five games remaining, starting with the return trip to Lees this week.
Captain Dec Naughton led the way with a man-of-the -match performance capped by two tries, while Sam Ottewell also scored a brace on his impressive return to the team.
Brad Baines also produced a fine display as he scored the first try and added six goals as the Sharks claimed a fourth win of the season.
Shaw Cross had a much stronger side on duty with Nathan Wright returning to the wing, Mark Smith and Dickie Piper bolstered the pack, while Under-16s forward Paul Chitakunye also kept his place in the team after impressing in the defeat at Hull Dockers the previous week.
Although the Sharks twice lost the ball when in good attacking positions, they were rewarded for a good start when Andrew Tillotson sent Baines over for the opening try on the back of a penalty.
East Leeds responded immediately as they were awarded a penalty and Nathan Conroy rounded the Sharks defence to score and he converted to edge the visitors ahead.
The lead lasted just four minutes as Shaw Cross regained the advantage when a terrific piece of skill by Tillotson saw him regather the ball after kicking behind the defence before flicking a reverse pass for Ottewell to score and Baines converted.
The Sharks repelled a spell of East Leeds pressure before quickly turning defence into attack with a flowing 80 metre move.
Harrison Sutcliffe collected the ball to set up good field position, from which Naughton charged over for their third try, which Baines converted.
The Sharks were reduced to 12 men when Ryan Ospital, playing his final game for the club before heading back to France, was sent to the bin for an alleged flop.
Sutcliffe produced an excellent tackle to deny East Leeds before the Sharks launched another attack and Ottewell spun out of tackle and then stepped round another defender to score his second try, with Baines tagging on his third goal.
Dom Hardisty capitalised on an error by Baines to score Easts second try and reduce the half-time deficit to 22-10.
Heavy rain in the second half made expansive play more difficult, but the Sharks dug deep to grind out a much needed victory.
Shaw Cross forced a drop out from the second half kick off and Ben Ripley looked to have touched down Ottewell’s kick to the left corner only to see the effort ruled out.
East Leeds further reduced the arrears with Tom Bull scoring at the corner and Conway added a brilliant touchline goal.
Baines eased Shaw Cross nerves with a 66th minute penalty and they put the result beyond doubt with a fifth try six minutes from the end.
Piper did brilliantly to win the ball back to put his side on the attack, before his offload sent Naughton over for a crucial score, which Baines converted.
Baines added a penalty from distance just before the final whistle as Shaw Cross handed themselves a relegation lifeline.
Following Saturday’s return trip to East Leeds, the Sharks face Crosfields, Wigan St Judes, Beverley and a potential final day showdown with Clock Face Miners.