Two sides, still with an outside chance of avoiding the middle eights, met at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford as the Red Devils took on a Widnes Vikings side under the new control of Francis Cummins.
A convincing win for Salford would see them up to ninth and snapping at the heels of eighth placed Huddersfield Giants and a win for the Vikings would lift them off the bottom and over Hull KR into eleventh.
Salford gave debuts to on-loan Greg Burke and Ed Chamberlain against their parent club while the Vikings also played their loan signing from Salford, Weller Hauraki. The bookies fancied a Salford win but the Vikings were determined to pick up their first away win of the season.
Widnes got the dream start after just five minutes when Tom Gilmore picked up a Joe Mellor bouncing kick through to ground under the uprights. Gilmore converted his own try for a 6-0 lead.
On ten minutes Kris Welham picked up a Widnes kick through on his own forty and went sixty metres, outpacing the chasing Gilmore, to score by the corner flag. Robert Lui was unable to convert from the touchline. Three minutes later Jake Bibby had a try turned down for a knock on.
On fifteen Welham got his second to put Salford into the lead as he took a Lui pass, threw the dummy and went ten metres to score. Lui hit the near upright with his conversion attempt but the Red Devils were two points up.
Welham was sin-binned on twenty-two for tacking a Widnes chaser without the ball with the line begging. After a stoppage for an injury Patrick Ah Van got on the end of a Tom Gilmore chip over the top to catch the ball on the full and touch down. Gilmore added the extras from the touchline for a 12-8 Vikings lead.
Salford were back on level terms nine minutes after the restart when Jake Bibby took a Jack Littlejohn pass to summersault over the line by the right corner flag. Lui again missed the conversion attempt, the sides on twelve points each. It was turning into the nailbiter that had been promised before kick-off.
On sixty-one Greg Burke struck a vital blow against his parent club when he crashed over under the sticks after being ankle tapped and rolling over before grounding. This time Lui added the extras for a six point home lead.
A high tackle by Jay Chapelhow on Junior Sa’u, inside his own twenty, gifted Lui a two pointer for 20-12.
On sixty-eight Viking Chris Houston was sin-binned for a high tackle, and after ironically applauding the referee he was shown the red card, it was the end of the Widnes challenge.
When Danny Craven kicked the ball it was charged down and picked up by Lui, just inside the Salford half, and he went fifty metres to score under sticks, adding the extras for a final scoreline of 26-12.
Salford have put themselves back in the running for a top eight finish but almost certainly condemned the Vikings to the middle eights competition and a fight for Super League survival. The Red Devils deserved the win and fought back well from a half-time deficit. Widnes were still in touch when Houstons sending off killed off their challenge and have only themselves to blame.
Red Devils: Littlejohn, Olpherts, Welham (2T, SB on 22), Sa’u, Bibby (T), Lui (2G), Shorrocks, Tasi, Wood, Burke (T), McCarthy, Griffin, Lannon. Subs: Kopczak, Tomkins, Nakubuwai, Chamberlain.
Vikings: Craven, Ah Van (T), Runciman, Olbison, Ince, Mellor, Gilmore (T, 2G), Chapelhow J, Johnstone, Chapelhow T, Whitley, Hauraki, Houston (SB on 68, SO on 68). Subs: Gerrard, Norman, Farnworth, Heremaia.
Referee: James Child.