THREE times this season York City Knights had been involved in tight games with only two points in them.

That became four at the John Charles Stadium as James Ford’s men withstood an almighty Hunslet comeback to win 26-24 and keep pace with Bradford at the top of Betfred League One, albeit slipping to second on points-difference after the Bulls’ rout of West Wales.

The Knights had surged 24-0 clear with a superb 16-minute four-try salvo before the half-hour but, rather than enjoy a comfortable win, they thereafter looked out of sorts at times in the face of the Parksiders’ resurgence which left the travelling faithful biting nails again.

Still, forget last week’s world record romp against a ragtag West Wales, this is what League One has been about this term, and, while letting their arch-rivals back into the game won’t please Ford, the fact they got over the line again underlines the character in his outfit.

To that end, old head Andy Ellis was crucial, the hooker often getting the team to better areas in the final quarter – and winning the 71st-minute penalty that ultimately decided the outcome.

The Knights had gone into the game without try-machine Kieren Moss following his recall by Hull KR and he was missed at the back.

Ash Robson was to revert to full-back but was omitted - with Ford refusing to explain why other than confirming he was not injured.

Instead, young Will Dagger was thrown in for a debut on dual-reg. Dagger had not trained with the team since pre-season and was always unlikely to fully fill Moss’s boots, but he did have some good involvements.

Veteran winger Tommy Saxton made only his second start of term, while big guns Tim Spears, Sam Scott and Ellis were back after being rested.

Ben Cockayne also returned at stand-off, and his combination with Jake Butler-Fleming and Judah Mazive on the right was key to York building their lead.

There was no place for Jake Normington back at his old stomping ground.

Hunslet had four other ex-Knights in the line-up in Jack Lee, Matty Nicholson, Duane Straugheir and winger Dee Foggin-Johnston, York’s top-scorer last year.

There was early niggle between Foggin-Johnstone and Robinson - the referee putting one incident on report after complaints from the Knights half-back.

Dagger’s first real involvement, meanwhile, was to burst onto a Horne offload, but the defence scrambled well.

York were initially on top but Hunslet were not afraid to play an expansive game – only it backfired after 12 minutes when a loose pass went to ground.

Scott duly gave Mazive a simple sprint home, Connor Robinson booting the first of his four conversions.

Dagger’s second involvement was to double the lead three minutes later, having been given a simple finish by Butler-Fleming after the Aussie danced between defenders.

The third try was all about Cockayne.

After Lee’s forward pass gave York a scrum, the veteran former Hull KR winger darted through a gap. He didn’t back himself to go all the way but, after a flamboyant pass to Butler-Fleming, the pair of them and Mazive interchanged passes for the winger to get his second try of the day and 10th of term.

The same trio soon combined again to get another cracker.

Cockayne’s cut-out out pass created space for JBF to feed Mazive and the winger, running out of ground, sent a wonderful kick inside which sat up perfectly for Cockayne to finish.

At 24-0 after 28 minutes, another romp looked afoot.

However, Hunslet were far from pushovers and hit back as Josh Jordan-Roberts went through untouched, Joe Sanderson goaling.

A dubious decision from referee John McMullen then gave them another leg-up, deeming Straugheir was dragged into touch.

From the penalty they seemed sure to score, but Sanderson was somehow halted by Joe Porter at the whitewash, Will Jubb completing the tackle.

A tip-tackle on Saxton gave York a quarter-chance to eke up the lead just before half-time but the penalty was inside the Knights’ half and, while the wind was behind it, Robinson’s long-range effort went just wide.

Instead, amazingly, it was Hunslet who scored.

The 20-metre restart kick blew back in the wind and was taken brilliantly by Nathan Chappell, who also won a penalty.

As the hooter sounded, Southernwood chipped to the corner and, as the defence stood and watched, centre Chappell took another super catch and touched down.

Sanderson’s touchline conversion curled in and it was game on at 24-12.

York were given an immediate advantage on the resumption as Hunslet sub Jack Walton was sin-binned for a crusher tackle on Dagger.

But, while Cockayne went close after a Robinson break, the 12 men battled on and very much stayed in the game.

Both sides survived scares after mistakes by full-backs under kicks but, while Ford threw Ellis, Horne and Adam Robinson back on to shore things up, Hunslet, back to 13, had tails up.

The visitors also made life hard for themselves and, after giving away another penalty, uncharacteristically poor goal-line defence allowed Walton to score.

Sanderson’s third goal made it 24-18 with 17 minutes left and with York on the back foot.

The visitors had a let-off, though, when, from an attacking scrum, hooker Lee went to the short side only for the excellent Mazive to force Will Cooke into touch.

Then, after a decent break by Dagger, a high shot on Ellis gave Connor Robinson an easy two points - and the Knights much-needed breathing space.

York were still struggling to see the game out, though, underlined when, under a terrible Hunslet kick, Spears and Mazive got in each other’s way.

They continued to give away penalties, too, and, after one took the Parksiders back downfield, Chappell ran home, the goal making it 26-24 with four minutes to go.

It was then anybody’s game when Southernwood chipped, chased and hacked on.

However, Joe Batchelor tracked back and somehow controlled a horrible bouncing ball to effectively save his side victory.