Leigh (6) 12
- Tries: McNally, Goulden
- Goals: Ridyard 2
Leeds (24) 60
- Tries: Hall 2, Sinfield 2, McGuire, Webb, Jones-Bishop, Burrow, Lunt, Smith
- Goals: Sinfield 10
Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield piled up 28 points to lead his team to the last four of the Challenge Cup with a hard-earned quarter-final win at Leigh.
Sinfield scored two of Leeds' 10 tries, as well as kicking every conversion.
Winger Ryan Hall bagged a brace of his own, while Danny McGuire, Brent Webb, Ben Jones-Bishop, Rob Burrow, Shaun Lunt and Lee Smith also crossed.
Brave Leigh claimed a try in each half from Tommy Goulden and Gregg McNally, Martin Ridyard kicking both goals.
Leeds' visit to Leigh Sports Village rekindled memories of one of the great Challenge Cup upsets in 1971, when Alex Murphy's unfancied Leigh beat the hot favourites 24-7.
Inspired perhaps by clips of that 1971 classic on the big screen and a pre-match appearance by Alex Murphy, architect of that famous victory, the Centurions matched their illustrious visitors for the opening quarter.
The tie looked to be going according to script when Leeds scored the first of their 10 tries after eight minutes, stand-off McGuire touching down after centre Smith had collected Sinfield's kick over the top.
The 5,290 crowd sensed an upset when Leigh drew level just four minutes later, the influential Bob Beswick handling twice before sending second rower Goulden over.
“Leeds will punish some Super League opposition far more severely than they did us. It's a cruel sport ”
But that was as good as it got for Paul Rowley's men as the Super League champions showed their class.
Another pinpoint kick from Sinfield created a try for full-back Webb midway through the first haf before Jones-Bishop and Hall both struck in a decisive four-minute spell just before half-time.
Leeds' top try scorer scored again after the break to take his overall try tally to 15 for the season, while Burrow marked his return from a four-match absence with a trademark solo effort.
Burrow also combined with McGuire to get substitute Lunt racing over for his third try in four appearances of his loan spell from Huddersfield.
Sinfield, already the club's all-time leading points scorer, twice got in the try-scoring act too.
And he now needs just one point to reach 3,000 for Leeds, having clocked up that total in 415 games since making his Rhinos debut in 1997.
Leigh did gain some reward for their persistence when full-back McNally, who so nearly touched down on the stroke of half-time following a superb break, won the race to his own kick for his side's second try.
But it could not stop Leeds getting the scent of Wembley in their nostrils again.
The reigning Super League champions have lost their five Challenge Cup finals, most recently
last season's 28-18 defeat by Wigan,
which followed a record Wembley thumping by Warrington in 2010.
But they are now just one game away from a third successive final.
And, by way of a possible omen, one of Friday night's hosts, Leigh general manager Richie Blackmore, was a member of the last Leeds team to win the Cup in 1999.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Leigh coach Paul Rowley:
"We did ourselves proud as a club. We believed we could expose Leeds and we found some weaknesses.
"Perhaps we just lacked a bit of a cutting edge and a powerful bench to come on and kick us on. That's when we saw Leeds become dominant.
"The stats were fairly even in terms of completion, possession and territority but they scored some fantastic long-range tries and they took their toll.
"Leeds will punish some Super League opposition far more severely than they did us. It's a cruel sport. We didn't deserve that scoreline. We created some massive opportunities against a world-class side."
Leeds assistant coach James Lowes:
"Kevin Sinfield's fantastic. He's been really good all season. He picked up a couple of tries as well, which is good to see. He fully deserved that.
"It didn't quite work for us in the first half but Leigh shut down some of our plays.
"We tweaked it a little bit at half-time and I thought we were pretty ruthless in the second half.
"Kev, Rob and Danny were very good and Ryan Bailey was a big influence for us."
FRIDAY NIGHT'S LINE-UPS
McNally; Maden, Littler, Gardner, Pownall; Ridyard, Beswick; Parker, Nicholson, Ostick, Laithwaite, Goulden, Nash.
Hopkins, Gallagher, Brierley, Briscoe.
Webb; Jones-Bishop, L Smith, Hardaker, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Burrow, Kirke, Jones-Buchanan, Hauraki, Clarkson.
McShane, Bailey, Moore, Lunt.
Ben Thaler (Wakefield).