Super League semi-final: Castleford Tigers 23-22 St Helens
|Betfred Super League semi-final|
|Castleford Tigers 23|
|Tries: Hardaker, Gale, Milner Goals: Gale 5 Drop-goal: Gale|
|St Helens 22|
|Tries: Grace, Knowles, Makinson, Percival, Morgan Goal: Percival|
|HT 8-10, FT 22-22, Castleford won in golden-point extra-time|
Luke Gale's drop-goal in golden-point extra time settled an enthralling semi-final against St Helens and sent Castleford Tigers into the Super League Grand Final for the first time.
Gale, who had his appendix removed less than three weeks ago, kicked a late penalty to force a 22-22 draw before landing the decisive one-pointer.
Castleford will face Leeds Rhinos or Hull FC at Old Trafford on 7 October.
They had led 20-10, but three late Saints tries looked set to deny them.
Saints, who lost in a Super League semi-final for the third season in succession, outscored the League Leaders' Shield winners by five tries to three.
But while Gale was perfect with his five kicks from the tee, St Helens' Mark Percival failed with four of his five attempts at goal.
Leeds host Challenge Cup holders Hull in the second semi-final on Friday.
Gale's golden return
England half-back Gale - one of three nominees for the 2017 Steve Prescott Man of Steel award - was instrumental on his return to the Castleford team.
The Tigers were runaway winners of the League Leaders' Shield, finishing 10 points clear of second-placed Leeds and 17 ahead of semi-final opponents Saints.
Rarely have they been tested so fiercely this season, but Daryl Powell's team showed huge resolve to secure an historic win for their club.
Zak Hardaker crossed for Castleford's opening try after 48 seconds but scores from Regan Grace and Morgan Knowles gave Saints a 10-8 half-time lead.
After weathering a spell of St Helens pressure, Castleford went 10 points up with tries from Gale and Adam Milner, before a thrilling climax.
Tommy Makinson and Percival brought the visitors back within two points and Justin Holbrook's side looked destined for a record 11th visit to Old Trafford when Ryan Morgan touched down with three minutes left to play.
However, they gave away a cheap penalty a few seconds before the hooter and Gale held his nerve - on two occasions - to seal a famous victory.
'My job is to kick goals'
Castleford's Luke Gale told BBC Radio 5 live sports extra:
"It's pretty special and hard to sum up. It was an emotional game. We won it, we lost it and we drew it. I'm just really proud of the boys. The belief we've got in this group is pretty special. We never stopped believing.
"We've been in these situations before this year and it stood us in good stead. My job is to kick goals whether it's first or last minute, it doesn't really matter.
"I'm just pleased it went over and I knew if I got an opportunity I'd be able to slot it home so I'm happy.
"I feel for Mark Percival. He's been outstanding all year and as kickers, you have those games. It's a shame for him, he's an outstanding player."
'A disappointing way to lose'
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook told Sky Sports:
"I feel horrible. It's hard to take at the moment. We showed the effort from the boys tonight.
"Away from home we kept coming and it was nearly enough to win it but it's devastating.
"It was a disappointing way to lose. I couldn't be prouder of the players but the result is hurting."
Castleford: Hardaker; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Massey, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Foster, McMeeken, Milner.
Replacements: Millington, Moors, Cook, Springer.
St Helens: Barba; Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Smith; Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Knowles, Taia, Wilkin.
Replacements: Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Peyroux, Fages.
Referee: James Child