THE drama was ridiculous – and it all ended in yet more play-off agony for York City Knights.

James Ford’s men and home team Whitehaven played out the most incredible of Kingstone Press League One promotion semi-finals, lasting a world record 105 minutes - and it only ended after a little-known rule gave the hosts the platform to finally win it.

York led 10-0 and Haven led 20-10 but, after 80 minutes and a stack of miss drop-goal attempts, the teams were tied at 20-20.

It remained that way after the first half of golden-point extra time as the rain and pitch got heavier, and it remained that way after the second half.

These things happen so infrequently that nobody off the pitch seemed to know the rules if it was still level after 100 minutes.

The teams played on and in the 26th minute of extra time, after an epic, Haven sub half-back Ste Roper finally kicked a drop goal for a 21-20 victory, and a place in the final against Barrow.

Both sides were out on their feet in the mud. Neither deserved to lose. The way York did finally fall was particularly heart-breaking too.

Haven’s previous drop-goal attempt was so far off-target it hit referee John McMullen and trickled out of bounds. The rule when the ball hits the ref is the attacking team get a scrum, and that was the final platform Roper needed.

The Knights, since being re-formed in 2003 have made three previous visits to this part of Cumbria, including a fortnight ago in the Super 8s, and had not won. They have been in the play-offs in the last three years too, and not won.

This was the cruellest of any loss. They had even scored more tries too – four to three – but the goals were the difference.

Connor Robinson thought his last attempt, after Ash Robson’s equalising try, was good - but the officials deemed it missed.

York went into the game without a win in four, although the last two – here at the Recre and at home to Newcastle last week – could be written off as dead rubbers, the Knights having already assured themselves of a play-off place, with Ford resting and rotating and planning thereafter for this knockout match.

The line-up showed eight changes to the 17 on duty here a fortnight ago, and six to that against the Thunder.

The most notable was the return at full-back after suspension of Robson.

Having been handed his six-match ban for alleged (and denied) spitting during the June meeting of these teams, he had a point to prove and a performance to owe. The former York Acorn junior delivered, a fine show capped by two tries.

Props Adam Robinson and Kieran Moran and superb second-row Joe Batchelor were back, as was veteran winger Tommy Saxton, whose experience and ability to make yards inside, got him the nod ahead of top try-scorer Dee Foggin-Johnston.

Brad Hey also returned alongside James Haynes in the centres, while fit-again hooker Harry Carter got the nod over Will Jubb as Andy Ellis’ interchange hooker, Ford trusting his protégé’s ability to run defenders ragged around the ruck.

Liam Harris passed fit to partner Connor Robinson in the halves but his threat was minimal - these muddy conditions not suiting his twinkling feet.

Whitehaven showed two changes in personnel to the side that beat York 26-16 a fortnight ago, back-rowers David Thompson and Lewis Brown making way for Karl Olstrom and Connor Holliday.

However, there was a shift in line-up with Dion Aiye, a loose-forward that day, switching to stand-off and player-boss Carl Forster, the former Super League prop, starting at 13.

As the forecast drizzly rain returned after kick off, that gave a clue to Haven’s tactics on this heavy pitch.

The game was always likely to be close given the two narrow Haven wins in the league this year.

York began the better.

Robson shepherded a kick dead and got a quick 20-metre restart, eluding a tackle before shifting the ball for Robinson to make 45 metres down the left wing.

York were fortunate to get a scrum at the end of the set but they made the most of it, Robson jinking inside for a fine opener, Robinson goaling.

Haven, having been handed two early penalties, nearly hit back from a Aiye grubber, but Holliday fumbled the bobbling ball at the whitewash.

Instead, it became 10-0, after home full-back Elliot Miller dropped a swirling Robinson kick to hand York another attacking platform.

Hey ignored his winger Saxton only to be halted short. But Batchelor benefited from good hands to brilliantly reach over the whitewash.

The game continued to and fro, Robinson missing the chance to eke the lead up with a penalty, 35 metres out on the right, before York’s defence was tested after two more penalties the hosts’ way had them camped in the red zone.

York survived that time but Haven got back in the game after 31 minutes on the back of two more penalties – the second being a huge intervention from referee McMullen.

Harris intercepted on his own line and had acres of green in front of him but his team were deemed to have been offside, and, from the tap, dangerman Jessie Joe Parker got over.

Paul Crook converted.

The sides traded handling errors, York going close when Miller hacked away a Harris kick before Robson could touch it down

But, on the back of another penalty – the hosts’ eighth, and another harsh one, this for tipping the man in the tackle – Whitehaven took a half-time lead.

Parker was held up by the left flag but the ball went inside where sub Tommy Holland crashing in and over at pace, Crooks’ conversion after the hooter making it 12-10.

That score had come with York looking a little rudderless, with old heads Ellis and Tim Spears both spelled.

However, Carter showed his worth with a blistering run from acting-half early in the second half which was only halted when he was tripped by Aiye, who was duly sin-binned.

That attacking platform was wasted, though, when Adam Robinson lost the ball, and from the second of two more penalties the other way, Crook eked the lead up to 14-10.

Ford immediately sent Spears back out, followed five minutes later by Ellis.

But the Knights could not see enough of – or do anything with - the ball to benefit from the extra man and, when a poor Harris kick went straight to Haven hands, they counterattacked with menace.

Batchelor showed great pace to catch Chris Taylor but the defence was stretched and centre Parker got over by the left flag.

Crook’s goal had Haven thinking they were in the final, 20-10 up, but this York side were not going to give up.

They won a dropout from a better Harris kick, on the back of a break by the long-striding Batchelor, and they won a penalty for a high tackle on Chris Siddons.

Hooker Ellis showed all his nous to get over from close-range, Connor Robinson goaling.

York fought on, and it was all square again with 10 minutes left.

Robinson’s grubber was spilled upwards by Miller, and Robson, putting him under pressure, gleefully grabbed it off him and forced it down.

Robinson thought his conversion had drifted in over a post but the officials said it missed, leaving the scores 20-20 as the rain got heavier.

The teams traded drop-goal attempts in the mud – Harris, Robson and Robinson either missing or having efforts charged down for York, likewise Roper and Crook for Haven.

As the drama increased in extra time, Crook thought he had won it but his drop-goal, amazingly, hit a post. Haven could still have scored from the rebound but Robson somehow got in the way.

The hosts had also wasted perfect field position when Marc Shackley fumbled on the last.

York too had some opportunities but for some reason looked to run rather than attempt more one-pointers.

The drama got worse. The pitch was worse.

In the second half of extra time, Robinson had another attempt charged down. So did Roper. Twice, both times the ball going back to Haven. Both times the defence dug so so deep.

The final hooter sounded but the teams played on and on – until Roper finally ended it.