YORK City Knights kick-off rugby league's 'Magic Weekend' tonight (8pm) at Newcastle Thunder.
Although not 'officially' part of the proceedings, the game at the Kingston Park Stadium serves as a curtain-raiser for the main event at nearby St James's Park.
Dubbed 'Magic Friday', it attracts supporters from the 12 Betfred Super League clubs who are descending on Newcastle for rugby's biggest party of the season. Over 3,000 watched the corresponding fixture 12 months ago.
The Knights will go into the game buoyed by a hat-trick of victories in Kingstone Press League One and a growing belief that they can qualify for this season's play-offs.
Thunder, in stark contrast, are seeking to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat after a slump in form that has dragged them into the bottom five.
Coach James Ford was delighted with his side's performance in last weekend's 64-12 victory over Coventry Bears but may have to replace Joe Porter who suffered a jaw injury.
Hooker Andy Ellis could return after missing last weekend's game with a groin injury suffered during the warm-up.
If Ellis is available, Ford may have a selection dilemma with Harry Carter and Pat Smith also competing at dummy-half.
With Harry Tyson-Wilson out for a month due to a knee injury, veteran Jonny Presley returned to the line-up against Coventry and paired up for the first time with young dual-reg Hull KR stand-off Liam Harris at half-back.
Ford reckons the partnership of “youth and experience” can blossom in the coming weeks after their maiden outing together ended in a try fest.
Both players scored tries against Coventry and Harris was named The Press man of the match for the second game in a row.
"Jonny’s experienced and Liam’s young but a fantastic player in the making," he said. "But we all have to stop talking him up or we’ll lose him (back to Hull KR)!
"He was sublime, a real running threat. Anything can happen," Ford added. "I thought he was outstanding and Jonny played that 'mature' role at the side of him.
“As a duo I thought they were great and Liam was right on the money for the majority of the game."
Thunder's squad for tonight's game includes a number of former Knights.
Jack Aldous, who captained the club last season, returns to action after serving a suspension following a red card against Barrow Raiders.
He is joined in the Thunder squad by his younger brother Harry who has recovered from the illness which ruled him out of his side's last two games.
Former Knights and York Acorn winger Peter Fox is also back in the Thunder squad as a replacement for Zach Clark.
York-born Fox, now 32, has played for Wakefield, Hull KR, Halifax, and Doncaster, since leaving the Knights at the end of the 2006 season and won six caps for England at the height of his career.
Others include Rhys Clarke, Brett Waller, and half-back Danny Nicklas.
Thunder winger Ali Blair admits that the 'Magic Friday' clash with York is one of the highlights of his season.
Now in his third year with the North East club, he made one of his first appearances against the Knights in 2015 watched by over 2,000 supporters.
"It was a great experience. In the first half, especially, it was just fantastic," he recalled. "It was great to be involved and to be able to put on a good game for the crowd.
"Playing in front of that brings in a bit more nerves than a normal game," he added. "But as I said, it’s fantastic and if we can get anything approaching that again this weekend it will be amazing.
"It’s been a tough couple of weeks," he admitted. "But I think we are confident in ourselves as a group of players and as individuals that we have got the skills and abilities. We just need to start bringing it together as a team and performing on the pitch. Once we do that, we’ll show teams and get to where we want to be.
"We’re still a developing club. I think the whole North East, in general, has great potential and the better we perform on the pitch it’s going to help off the pitch."