|Betfred Super League|
|Salford (6) 12|
|Tries: Pauli, Inu Goals: Inu 2|
|St Helens (10) 10|
|Tries: Eaves Goals: Dodd 3|
Salford struck late through Krisnan Inu to deny a youthful St Helens side an 11th Super League win in a row and end a three-game losing run.
Saints racked up a 10-0 lead through Josh Eaves' try and tree Lewis Dodd goals, but a typical Pauli Pauli barge got Salford points before the break.
Both sides passed up chances after the break, with Saints debutant Tom Nisbet and Salford's Rhys Williams spilling.
But Inu powered over late on to keep Saints waiting for a play-off spot.
Saints boss Kristian Woolf gambled on an inexperienced crop of players, including five debutants - Nisbet, Ben Davies, Nico Rizzelli, Matthew Foster and Jake Wingfield - and it almost paid off with the derby against Wigan looming this week.
There was an energy and zest to their play before the break, as they controlled the first half hour but only had Eaves' try, created by Dom Peyroux's rampaging run, to show for it.
However, Pauli scored off a trademark bludgeoning carry to bring Salford back into the game and they were far more competitive after the break in chilly conditions.
That said, genuine goalline action was sparse, despite a try-saving tackle stopping Tui Lolohea from grounding.
Ian Watson, who has been linked with the Hull FC job this week, saw his side show the character to overturn the deficit - and bounce back from their Challenge Cup final disappointment..
Saints stay top, however, and remain on course for the League Leaders' Shield despite this blip.
After the match, Watson confirmed reports that he had been approached by Hull FC, but has chosen to remain with the Red Devils.
"Hull came forward and I can't speak highly enough of them," Watson said. "They've been really professional and did everything the right way. They contacted the club asking if they could have permission to speak to me and the club gave them permission.
"I spoke to Adam [Hull chairman Adam Pearson] who talked about what was important to him and his family at Hull and the Hull club and making sure they were right going forward.
"My concern are my players at Salford and, with the timing and the circumstances and everything else that's going on with Covid - my girls are the in the final year of their A-levels and GCSEs - it's probably not right for us at the moment.
"I'm flattered to be considered to be honest. As you go forward, you never know. I want to challenge myself and see how far I can go. I'd love to go and coach in the NRL one day but there's a process to go through to get there and I'm still enjoying what I'm doing here."
Saints coach Woolf said he was "really proud" of the effort his youthful side put in against a determined Salford outfit.
"I thought we did a great job and for 75 minutes we had an opportunity to win," Woolf added.
"A lot of blokes will take a lot of lessons out of the last couple of minutes. Every play counts at this level."
Salford: Sarginson; Williams, Chamberlain, Kear, Inu; Lolohea, Atkin; Mossop, Ackers, Yates, McCarthy, Pauli, Burke
Interchanges: Lussick, Dudson, Jones, Roberts
St Helens: Costello; Nisbet, Davies, Simm, Rizzelli; Dodd, Welsby; Batchelor, Eaves, Walmsley, Peyroux, Paulo, Graham
Interchanges: Ashworth, Smith, Foster, Wingfeld