Keighley Cougars 12 Bradford Bulls 14

If last season's results were anything to go by, this should have been a comfortable afternoon for Bulls - but Cougars failed to read the script.

When the sides met in the league last year Bradford blew away their rivals twice and, given Keighley's off-field difficulties over the winter, most pundits will have expected another emphatic win for the Championship visitors.

But Cougars had other ideas and were intent on writing their own fairytale which read: side in a higher division visit smaller neighbours, a team given a new lease of life under new owners who defeat their more illustrious rivals as David beats Goliath.

It so nearly came true at Cougar Park, only for Bulls to sneak home by the finest of margins.

Bradford were far from spectacular, despite strong spells of dominance, but they advanced into the fifth round - just.

Cougar Park was buzzing for this local derby. It had the feel of an FA Cup third round tie; the buzz of anticipation of a potential giant killing, the underdogs dreaming of going one step closer on the road to Wembley.

It was like the early 1990s all over again, Cougarmania rebranded and rebooted; the music, the crowd noise and the atmosphere.

But there would be no fairytale, no gift from heaven as chairman Mick O’Neill had craved in the build-up.

Instead the reality of one league difference between the sides rang true, but it certainly wasn’t without its scares for John Kear’s men.

Captain Steve Crossley led from the front for the Bulls, with George Flanagan following him close behind. But, despite winning, their team-mates had an average day at the office.

Bulls did have dangerous spells in this closely-fought cup tie. However, their knocks at the door were very rarely answered.

Ultimately it was the boot of Elliot Minchella which proved the difference between the two sides. A two-point game and not quite the steamrollering scoreline people may have expected pre-match.

Despite the defeat, Cougars, as a club, can be proud of their display, both on and off the pitch. They seem like a club now on an upwards curve after a horrendous pre-season involving players and staff not being paid their wages, a takeover and starting the season with a 12-point deduction.

The only real negative on the day to blot Cougars’ copybook was a sin-binning for second row Josh Lynam with six minutes remaining. Even this couldn’t keep them down, despite the defeat.

The Cougars squad took the opportunity to take a post-match team photo after the final whistle, to capture how far the club had come. But for Bulls, they were far from picture perfect.

The visitors just did enough, in what has been a steady start to the season, as they have adjusted well to life in the Championship. Their eyes will now turn to their league clash with Dewsbury Rams on Sunday, when you can imagine a few choice words from Kear will still be ringing in their ears during the cup tie’s post-mortem in training this week.

The sparkling silver Challenge Cup was pitch-side before kick-off, but on this display at least, Bulls are a long way from being considered an outside bet to lift it at Wembley come August.

The last 20 minutes, in particular, were both edgy and exciting. From the moment Cougars’ left-wing Alfie Seeley collected a high kick and breached the Bulls’ defence, it looked like being game-on. Which way would this tie go? Would it go to golden point extra-time?

But it was Minchella to the rescue for Bulls’ in the 67th minute as his penalty sealed his side’s place in Monday night's draw.

The kick had resulted from a controversial decision by referee Marcus Griffiths. Cougars right centre Will Cooke was down injured near the halfway line and was still penalised for interference in the tackle. Keighley head coach Craig Lingard went berserk on the touchline, but to no avail.

Minchella had grabbed a 53rd-minute penalty to emphasise Bulls’ dominance during the start of the second period. This resulted from a hand in the ruck which prevented the play. At this stage you could be forgiven for thinking the writing was on the wall for Cougars.

It seemed like Kear had delivered the hairdryer treatment at the interval, as Bulls charged into dominance at the start of the second half.

This was emphasised when the impressive Flanagan found a gap in Keighley’s rear-guard to go underneath the posts from dummy half. Minchella converted.

David Foggin-Johnston was Bulls’ star man in the opening 40 minutes. He continually stormed down the left-wing as he looked for a way through the stubborn and resilient Cougars’ defence.

With the score at 6-4 in Cougars’ favour at half-time, their long-suffering fans could be forgiven for daring to dream they could pull off an upset.

It could have been a different story at the turnaround as Bulls had tries disallowed.

But they did manage to cross two minutes before the break. Ethan Ryan, wearing what Bulls legend Robbie Hunter-Paul, who was commentating on the cup clash, classed as peach-coloured boots, accepted a high ball and touched down for Bradford.

Dalton Grant, making his first start of the season for Bulls following a groin injury, had his try scrubbed off with the referee deeming Ryan's pass to him was forward.

There was a moment for Cougars fans to saviour in the 24th minute when a club legend crossed.

James ‘Buster’ Feather, tempted out of retirement to join the new-look Cougars, found a gap himself and grabbed a try. The home support went crazy. Benn Hardcastle converted with his reliable boot.

Until this point the game was surprisingly scoreless. Bulls were trying to break down a well-disciplined Cougars backline.

The tie got shirty early, in the 11th minute to be precise, when Ryan's spilled pass by the touchline saw Cougars' Lynam push him off the pitch.

A melee involving all of the players followed in Bulls' own 20-metre area. In truth, this was the only flash point as both sides kept a lid on any local rivalry. It was certainly not as feisty as an Old Firm derby, which was also played on Sunday.

After a scrappy start with loose hands from both teams, Foggin-Johnston had the contest’s first chance of note on eight minutes when his try was disallowed due to a forward pass.

Kear’s fury at the end of the game was certainly justified after a lacklustre performance. But, ultimately, all you have to do is find a way to get into the hat for the next round and, in that respect, it was mission accomplished.