A thrilling last-gasp 60-metre try from full-back Matty Ashton broke Castleford hearts and preserved Warrington’s 100 per cent record since the resumption of the Betfred Super League.
The Tigers dominated the round 12 match at St Helens for long periods but frittered away a host of chances and paid the price when England second rower Ben Currie breached their defence with three minutes to go and sent Ashton over for a try that levelled the scores.
Stefan Ratchford, who demonstrated his versatility by playing in different positions in three successive matches, then held his nerve by kicking the conversion to snatch a 12-10 victory, a seventh successive triumph which was achieved despite the absence of a host of regulars.
A fourth defeat in five games since the re-start dealt a huge blow to Castleford’s top-four hopes and coach Daryl Powell has only three days to pick his side up for their Challenge Cup sixth-round tie against Hull on Sunday.
The only disappointment for Warrington was an incident in which winger Tom Lineham was placed on report for allegedly grabbing the testicles of centre Alex Foster, an offence which recently landed St Helens winger Tom Makinson with a five-match ban.
The Wolves, who gave a debut to second rower Eribe Doro, were without seven players due to issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and England hooker Daryl Clark was left out so he could be with his wife as she prepared to give birth to their first child.
Castleford were still without stand-off Jake Trueman but Peter Mata’utia stepped into the breach wonderfully well as he tormented the Wolves defence with his elusive running and it needed an ankle tap from Ratchford to deny him early on.
The Tigers thought they had scored when scrum-half Danny Richardson, revelling on his return to the Totally Wicked Stadium, looked to have won the race to his own grubber kick but video referee Chris Kendall decided it was a double movement.
Undeterred, Richardson threaded another clever kick through the Warrington defence and this time full-back Gareth O’Brien got a decisive touch after the ball had ricocheted off an upright.
Richardson added the conversion and, although Warrington forward Ben Murdoch-Masila was held up over the line, Castleford remained on top throughout the first half and ought to have been further in front.
Prop Grant Millington plunged over the line only for the video referee to rule he had failed to ground the ball and another chance went begging when second rower Oliver Holmes knocked on 10 metres out.
The Wolves might have been content to turn around only 6-0 down but they found themselves level when former England winger Josh Charnley leapt above Greg Eden to get to the ball from Blake Austin’s high kick and palmed it back for centre Anthony Gelling to touch down.
Ratchford kicked the conversion from the touchline to lock up the scores and make coach Steve Price’s interval talk that bit easier.
They began the second half brightly, with substitute Luis Johnson reaching the line only to lose control of the ball in the act of grounding, and the miss quickly became costly.
Warrington centre Jake Mamo was sin-binned after 52 minutes for obstructing winger Derrell Olpherts as he chased his own kick and Castleford immediately made the extra man count as Olpherts squeezed over at the corner.
Richardson was unable to add the goal and the Wolves were convinced they had levelled the scores once more eight minutes later when Austin crashed through the Tigers defence but it was ruled he lost the ball in the tackle of O’Brien and Mata’utia.
Restored to 13 men, Warrington launched a furious onslaught and both prop forwards Leilani Latu and Mike Cooper were held up over the line as Castleford were forced into some desperate defence.
They looked to have held out until Currie came up with his late heroics and there was no time for the Yorkshiremen to hit back.