THERE will be a fairy-tale figure in the Challenge Cup semi-finals next month – but it won’t be the Bulls.

Instead, Halifax are in the last four for the first time in 31 years after edging a pulsating encounter at Odsal.

It took a while to come to the boil after a stop-start first half; but you couldn’t take your eyes away from the second.

And at the end of it, part-timers Halifax had come from behind three times to claim a famous victory – and leave the Bulls wondering what might have been as a massive opportunity slipped away.

Nobody relishes the Challenge Cup quite like John Kear after the Bulls coach masterminded notable successes with Sheffield and Hull.

He had talked about the romance of leading the first Championship semi-finalists since 2006 – but instead it will be Halifax rookie coach Simon Grix with that honour at Bolton.

Kear had been able to pick from strength again after the previous week’s flop at Featherstone. Jake Webster, Dalton Grant, Rowan Milnes and Ross Peltier were all back in business.

The Bulls were simply edged out by the better team.

Fax, like the Bulls, had four big hitters back from their slip-up at Batley, which ended a four-game winning start under Grix.

But second-row Ed Barber, one of those returning men, lasted only six minutes after falling awkwardly in a tackle with David Foggin-Johnston. He had to be helped off for a head assessment.

Halifax had the first scoring chance through Ben Kavanagh’s break. But Jacob Fairbank could only juggle his pass and Liam Kirk was back to defuse the danger.

And immediately the Bulls turned frantic defence into devastating attack with the opening try.

Overloading the left side, Foggin-Johnston used his pace out wide before the supporting Milnes took his lay-off to go over.

Halifax then went down to 12 men as Adam Tangata was sin-binned after a late hit on Jordan Lilley after his kick had gone. A dust-up between both sides followed before Scott Mikalauskas went to his back pocket to bring out the yellow.

Bulls were awarded a penalty 20 metres out and opted to go for two – only for Elliot Minchella to drag his kick wide.

But despite being a man down, Halifax started to ask questions and a booming 40/20 from Scott Grix, the older brother of the coach, had them knocking on the door.

Grant, though, made a key interception on his own 10-metre line to snuff out the threat before the visitors got back up to numerical strength with Tangata’s return.

There were increasingly scrappy moments from both sides as the tension of the occasion played its part. But Lilley showed a steady head to anticipate Murrell’s kick over the top in front of his own posts.

Lilley, though, was then guilty of a clear forward pass to curtail their first promising attacking opening since the try.

It was tense, disjointed stuff and the Bulls suffered a real blow on 32 minutes when Milnes had to be stretchered off with what was later diagnosed as a broken leg. Applause from all sides of the ground masked the concern at losing such a key player.

The warning signs were flashing for the hosts but excellent goalline defence resisted the increasing Halifax pressure. Murrell went closest with a show-and-go but was smothered a metre short.

But it was the Bulls who got back on the scoreboard as half-time approached thanks to back-to-back penalties.

Ross Peltier was caught with a high shot 10 metres out and Lilley took over kicking duties to slot over a simple two points to give the Bulls a six-point advantage at the break.

But Halifax were possibly the happier of the teams given the extra ground generated by their opponents.

And Fax turned the table in dramatic circumstances within five minutes of the restart.

Murrell angled a kick into the in-goal where centre Steve Tyrer marked his 200th game for the club with an aerial take to score.

He soared above Webster, who dragged him back as they fell – and the call from the video ref was eventually given as a penalty try.

That meant Tyrer not only tacked on the conversion but then an extra penalty bang in front to give Fax a two-point lead.

The visitors had the bit between their teeth – and there looked to be a biting allegation as an incident between Mikey Wood and Dan Fleming was put on report.

But the Bulls hit back to cash in on a Fax mistake and regain their advantage.

Matty Wildie, back in the halves since Milnes’ unfortunate exit, put in a testing kick which Lilley followed in. Grix fumbled under the pressure and Webster was on hand to touch down the loose ball.

Points remained at a premium and Lilley was visibly frustrated not to be set up for a drop-goal attempt as the Bulls went in close. Instead, it was Wildie who tried to spin his way in but was hauled down just short by Chester Butler.

As the game swung one end to the other, Murrell was smothered right under the sticks and a drop on the final tackle brought high fives all round from the Bulls defenders.

But the escape proved temporary. James Woodburn-Hall, fresh from the Fax bench, led a three-man break from the 40-metre line and Quentine Laula-Togaga’e played in Grix to dive in. Tyrer’s extras put them two to the good with 14 minutes left.

The ding-dong affair continued as the Bulls hit straight back after Kevin Larroyer dropped the ball in a tackle from Matty Storton.

Wildie scooped it up and raced unchallenged 45 metres for a third home try – that was awarded after another anxious wait for the TV verdict.

Dalton Grant pulled off a nerveless goalline catch from Murrell’s bomb but the lead changed hands once more as Woodburn-Hall continued his dramatic intervention.

It was a line break almost identical to their last score as Woodburn-Hall and QLT descended on Ethan Ryan. The former dummied twice and then strode in for the try, which Tyrer improved to put them up by four.

The second half had witnessed such incredible drama after the tension of the first. But there was to be no late twist for the Bulls.