WHEN Joe Keyes nailed that after-the-hooter penalty on the Bulls’ debut in League One, it fired a rivalry that has burned brightly over two seasons.

York had their revenge by the same breathless two-point margin at Odsal a few months later on the way to pipping John Kear’s side to the title.

And north Yorkshire triumphed in the west once more in February, holding off a Bulls fightback to claim the honours in their first Championship meeting.

So, round four of this gripping contest had been eagerly anticipated, even more so given that both sides are pounding it out in the play-off fight.

Another bumper crowd was not disappointed as the contest went right to the wire before York sneaked another win with a last-gasp drop goal.

York celebrated like they had won the title once again. But the Bulls are on the ropes, especially with a home date against Toronto to follow their much-needed free weekend.

This had been pencilled in as the curtain-raiser for the new community stadium the Knights will share with York City.

With that opening put back until December for now, it meant one more tussle at Bootham Crescent – where the raucous atmosphere rattled round the famous old ground.

“Bring the noise” had been the Knights motto in the pre-match build-up and the fans of both sides certainly did that. These match-ups are no place for faint hearts.

But York are used to going the distance – in 25 games settled by seven points or less over the last two seasons, they have come out on top 19 times.

Kear had thrown a selection curveball at opposite number James Ford by naming Steve Crossley and Jy Hitchcox, neither of whom had been in the original 19-man squad. Fit-again Rhys Evans also featured for the first time since April – but his comeback was short-lived.

The return of captain Crossley after three games out with a shoulder injury was especially timely for a contest so critical to the Bulls’ play-off ambitions.

Not surprisingly, Kear was keen to shake things up after that costly dropped point against Swinton.

Joe Brown started his first Championship game at full back as Brandon Pickersgill was ruled out with a dead leg.

Brown made an instant impact as the Bulls roared into a sensational first-minute lead. He rampaged forward before feeding Ross Oakes and a quick lay-off released Ethan Ryan to plunge spectacularly for his 17th try of the year.

Will Jubb launched a powerful York response with a break from halfway before scrambling defence halted Marcus Stock five metres out.

A handling error from Crossley gave York good field position again and they forced a goalline drop-out. But Scott was punished for a double movement as he stretched to sneak over the line.

The increasing York pressure paid off with a simple penalty for Connor Robinson after the Bulls were penalised for interference in front of their own posts.

Keyes fluffed the chance to counter with a kick of his own, pulling his 30-metre shot wide after overruling the sideline call to run it. In a contest of tight margins, that was a potentially significant miss.

York looked to crank up the heat on the Bulls defence once more but came up short again as Jason Bass was halted on the line by Sam Hallas and Matty Storton.

Controversy then raged as Ryan ran in for what looked to be his second try – only for it to be chalked off by the touch judge. It was presumably for stepping over the dead-ball line but Kear led the protests against the officials.

With the feelings of injustice still running high, the Bulls then fell behind for the first time. Ryan failed to hang on to Liam Harris’ grubber behind his own line and Will Oakes was on hand to pounce on the loose ball.

As tempers began to rise, Ronan Dixon was sin-binned for throwing an elbow – but York still struck again while short-handed.

The Bulls were knocking on the door but Brown’s pass aiming for Ryan was picked off by Oakes – who pounded upfield to race from one end to the other as the place erupted.

York had scored 14 unanswered points and the visitors needed something before the hooter. That man Ryan supplied it after a clever run from Keyes carved open the defence, the winger not being denied on this occasion.

Jordan Lilley took over conversion duties but he missed as well. The six-point difference between the sides at the end of an enthralling first half was purely down to the Bulls’ missed kicks.

But it was obviously catching at that end as Robinson skewed an attempted drop-goal four minutes after the restart. The fact York were even looking for a one-pointer at that stage showed how tense it had become.

The Bulls forced York to kick out from their line for the first time. But Ross Peltier was held up as he tried to bulldoze over before Matty Storton was smothered a couple of metres short.

Evans made his long-awaited comeback on 50 minutes and his first attacking foray was stopped on the York line.

Elliot Minchella was taken off for tests after a clash of heads but the Bulls continued to chip away at the hosts and were rewarded as Ryan claimed his hat-trick. Keyes weighted an angled kick out wide and the winger was airborne to make the catch and finish.

Keyes got his angles right from the conversion to lock the scores up – for a short time only.

York emerged from their sluggish spell to regain the lead as winger Perry Whiteley cut inside and snaked out an arm to get over the Bulls line.

Evans was left pole-axed in a tackle and was taken off in a daze before the Bulls were seeing stars again.

In a carbon copy of Ryan’s third try, this time it was Robinson chipping to the wing where Whiteley leapt over Hitchcox to come down with the score. Robinson’s conversion – the first successful attempt at the open end – made it a 10-point gap once more.

Minchella returned to the fray and was denied a quick score by York’s alert goalline defence. But the Bulls got their lifeline as Keyes found Ross Oakes, who spun two defenders to go over in front of the jubilant away fans.

And it got even better after York gave away a penalty deep in their own half. The Bulls worked the ball wide where Hitchcox athletically scooped it up and dived over by the corner.

Lilley attempted to inch the Bulls in front with a drop-goal from halfway – but it bounced back off the post as the whole ground held its breath.

Instead it was York who got the crucial one-pointer as Harris knocked it through via the upright. Another dramatic finale – and a hammer blow to the Bulls’ top-five hopes.