St Helens broke Salford hearts with a dramatic late comeback to win 32-30.
Lachlan Coote’s conversion of James Bentley’s try two minutes from the end completed a Saints fightback from 30-16 down after the Red Devils had scored 30 unanswered points having trailed 16-0 themselves.
Robert Lui had orchestrated a superb Salford comeback to quash any concerns that the unsettling of Ian Watson’s out of contract players would affect performances, but they were cruelly robbed at the death in a thriller.
It looked like it would be a routine home win for Justin Holbrook’s side as they led 16-0 within 12 minutes.
Tommy Makinson’s score in the corner added to the first two of Coote’s hat-trick of tries, with the Scotland international adding two conversions from three attempts.
But Salford, winless at St Helens since 1980, turned the game on its head with Lui and Jackson Hastings pulling the strings.
Gil Dudson powered over to get them on the board on 16 minutes, and the first sign the tide was turning came when a Coote kick out on the full gave Salford field position.
From it Derrell Olpherts thought he had scored in the corner, but Coote had done enough to ensure the video referee could rule out the try.
That proved a brief blip for Salford as Olpherts then fed Niall Evalds to go long distance and Olpherts then got on the scoreboard himself as he powered past three Saints defenders, Krisnan Inu’s third conversion of the night putting them 18-16 to the good.
Half time gave Saints the opportunity to settle but Salford came out the blocks flying.
On 54 minutes, Lui stepped and burst through the tackle of Zeb Taia and Jonny Lomax to feed Evalds on his inside to race under the posts in front of the travelling fans.
Inu then went agonisingly close as Salford created an overlap on the right, his kick through was fumbled by Coote, with the covering Morgan Knowles just doing enough to dislodge the ball from Inu’s grasp as he went over the line.
Once again it was a minor delay to a score, as straight from the scrum Lui threw another step and beat three men to romp home under the posts for 30-16.
Saints had work to do and time wasn’t on their side. Dom Peyroux charged up the middle and was brought down by the covering Salford defence, laying the platform for Theo Fages to force a drop out.
The pressure told as Fages found Taia, who laid on a wonderful one touch pass back on the inside for Coote to grab his hat-trick.
The crowd got behind the hosts and after they fielded Inu’s relatively short kick-off on the 30 metre line, they would make it back to back scores.
Makinson seared through on the right hand side to grab his second, Coote adding a crucial touchline conversion to really get their tails up.
There was brief respite for Salford when Coote was tackled in to touch on half-way, but the Saints surge kept coming and eventually the pressure would tell.
Bentley, who had come on as a stand-in hooker, took on George Griffin close to the line and managed to just about get the ball down, with the video referee having a good look to see if it had been dislodged.
Coote’s conversion broke Salford’s hearts and earned Saints’ 14th win from 15 in Super League this season.
Elsewhere in Super League, Huddersfield came from behind to win 22-16 at home to Hull KR, a result which leaves the Robins second from bottom in the table.
St Helens: Coote, Swift, Makinson, Costello, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Smith, Lees, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs: Paulo, Amor, Ashworth, Bentley.
Salford: Evalds, Olpherts, Inu, Welham, Sio, Lui, Hastings, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, Burke. Subs: Walker, Murray, McCarthy, Pauli.