THERE was an April Saturday during City’s last successful promotion push when the stars suddenly aligned and every score went their way.

Without trying to hark back and use what happened 10 years ago as a constant reference point, there was a similar feel as the results came through over the weekend.

In 2012/2013, a home win over Northampton was followed with news elsewhere that rivals were all simultaneously stuttering to open the door invitingly to the play-offs.

For Mark Hughes’ men, the automatic promotion places are appearing tantalisingly on the horizon after a much-needed win gained ground on everyone around them.

I’m sure Richie Smallwood, who admitted he is no fan of team-mates rushing to see what’s going on in other games, won’t have minded avidly scanning the scores on the back of three huge home points.

It will have made for very happy reading.

After Stockport and Salford had obliged with a draw the previous night, Northampton and Stevenage could not be separated - while Carlisle slipped up again at Leyton Orient.

City could not have cherry-picked a better outcome.

Third place is just four points away again - second is six, with a game in hand … and they still have to go to Sixfields on the penultimate weekend.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: City players pay their respects to Professor David SharpeCity players pay their respects to Professor David Sharpe (Image: Thomas Gadd)

No wonder Hughes was celebrating Alex Gilliead winning a 50/50 tackle on the halfway line at the end like he had just scored a Wembley winner.

Arms manically punching the air, the manager’s exuberant reaction was mirrored by every home fan in another bumper Valley Parade audience.

The united front that he had called for in the build-up was clear with the booming decibel level that greeted the midfielder’s exertion to shut down an opponent.

It was a release of the pressure valve at the end of a pulsating match that had provided just about everything - including, thankfully, the ideal ending from a City persuasion.

This club never do it easy, do they?

No such thing as a straightforward win by a couple of goals over lower mid-table opponents, who must literally be out on their feet after their FA Cup exploits created a punishing fixture schedule.

Grimsby, backed by a raucous 2,200-strong following, gave as good as they got for long periods and made City strain every sinew to get the three-point reward that was desperately needed.

Make no mistake, this was the definition of “must win” territory.

With everyone else at the top end playing each other, the Bantams simply had to cash in and ensure they picked up points on at least a couple of those teams.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: City celebrate Alex Gilliead's first goal for 18 monthsCity celebrate Alex Gilliead's first goal for 18 months (Image: Thomas Gadd.)

To make inroads on all of them - forget Orient, who look home and hosed - was the juiciest of bonuses for their hard work.

Not since May 2017 have City face such a crucial month on the pitch. They could not afford to end up April fools at the start of it.

That was why Hughes led the players on a “lap of honour” after the final whistle - and why most fans stayed where they were to acknowledge the team and soak up the positive atmosphere.

The Bantams have fallen short on too many occasions at home but finally went the distance and grabbed the prize. Why shouldn’t they milk that moment on and off the pitch?

There are eight more big, big tests to come before the curtain falls on May 8. Nobody is getting ahead of themselves.

But this felt significant as City savoured a first come-from-behind Valley Parade victory since Salford’s 10 men were beaten in January last year.

Turn the clock back an hour and nobody had been in the party mood. Traipsing in at half-time 2-1 down and boos ringing in their ears, the vibe could not have been more different.

That was the time to see what this side are made of. Show those “big balls” as Jose Mourinho would say.

The score from the early kick-off had no doubt filtered through to those other teams ahead of their more conventional start times.

But any spring in the step to their warm-ups would disappear as City roared back in front of a bouncing Kop.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Matt Derbyshire runs to embrace scorer Jamie WalkerMatt Derbyshire runs to embrace scorer Jamie Walker (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Not that the name of the winning scorer would have come as any surprise. Andy Cook against a former club? It’s a given that he’ll find the back of the net.

This one will have felt sweeter given the vile chants that rang out from the away fans towards the striker who had played two seasons in their black-and-white stripes in the National League.

The last thing you want to do is get Cook riled up. Just ask Hartlepool or Stevenage.

With one fan in the main stand dressed up as the Pope, it felt like City could have done with some divine intervention at the halfway stage.

But then again, they have their own God of goals.

Cook had played his part in the opener as City got off to the perfect start.

An afternoon that had begun in poignant manner as Professor David Sharpe’s legacy was remembered with a minute’s applause quickly became one of celebration - or so it seemed.

Brad Halliday’s cross dropped invitingly at the feet of Harry Chapman eight yards out.

He was thwarted by keeper Max Crocombe but Cook kept the danger alive and fed the excellent Gilliead to slot his first goal for 18 months and 77 games.

The stage was set - until Harry Lewis and Matty Platt dithered as the keeper came out to field an aimless pass forward from Josh Emmanuel.

Neither spotted Harry Clifton on his toes until it was too late and Lewis clipped him just before claiming the ball.

Gavin Holohan’s penalty came as a shock but nowhere near as nasty as Andy Smith’s second just before the break after City got in a mess from some corner pinball in the six-yard box.

Hughes spent the interval clearing heads in the dressing room to prevent things falling apart.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: How the top of League Two looks after yesterdayHow the top of League Two looks after yesterday (Image: Web)

There were plenty of attacking options on the bench to help save the day and he summoned Matt Derbyshire, back in the squad after eight games out with an injured thigh, just after the hour.

Replacing the disappointing Chapman, the veteran striker had been on barely a minute when he got a faint touch on Sam Stubbs’ long ball. Crocombe fumbled under pressure from Jamie Walker’s run and the Scot converted into an empty net.

Like Hartlepool, City had the comeback in their sights and this time pulled it off.

Derbyshire was again involved, taking Walker’s pass wide on the right and delivering a low cross which Cook manoeuvred first time through Smith and past Crocombe.

Valley Parade’s noise level went through the roof. The home fans, very much second fiddle to their Grimsby counterparts up to the equaliser, had found their voice and then some.

One down - eight to go.