YORK City Knights won so many games by four points or less on their way to the League One crown that it has become something of a habit.

They have taken that habit into the Betfred Championship – and how.

This time only one point was the difference as they beat Leigh Centurions 9-8 in yet another battle at Bootham Crescent. And what a battle.

It was summed up by the standing ovation and chanting at the end, which lasted several minutes with few people leaving until every player, battered and bruised, had disappeared down the tunnel.

How they won this one only the rugby gods will know. Boss James Ford talks a lot about resilience, but this was resilience and some.

They had been on the back foot for most of the second half but Connor Robinson’s drop goal eked them ahead 11 minutes from time.

Leigh could still have drawn or won the game but Martyn Ridyard missed a penalty, missed a drop goal and had another one-pointer charged down. Then Dan Richardson missed a drop goal on the final hooter. The cheers were deafening.

There had been only one try apiece but this had been gripping stuff.

York’s remarkable start to the Championship duly goes on. Dewsbury, Barrow and now two former Super League clubs in Bradford and Leigh seen off. These are indeed heady times for the club.

Ford made three changes to the side that won at Bradford.

Winger Perry Whiteley returned from suspension in place of the crocked Ash Robson, prop Jack Blagbrough was back in at prop against his former club, Dave Petersen making way, and Josh Jordan-Roberts returned in the second row in place of Brad Hey.

Fit-again skipper Tim Spears was in the 19-man squad but - perhaps needing another week in training to get up to speed after so long out - did not make the 17, Graeme Horne switching to loose-forward and Marcus Stock keeping his place on the bench.

Leigh boss John Duffy made three changes to the side that performed so admirably against Toronto, with ex-Wolfpack winger Jonny Pownall and forward Nick Gregson back in and Aaron Smith, who had a loan stint at York last year, coming in as interchange hooker.

Smith was one of four St Helens dual-reg players in the Centurions 17, alongside Luke Douglas, Richardson and James Bentley.

It was the other Saints player on the field, however, who opened the scoring – Joe Batchelor, in the last game of his loan spell back at York, streaking clear after quick hands from Ben Cockayne and Connor Robinson had put him into space.

The try followed the first mistake of the day - the experienced Ridyard, starting again at full-back for Leigh with Ireland international Gregg McNally out injured – dropping a Robinson kick. He had further trouble under the high ball, forcing Duffy to switch around his back line inside half an hour with Pownall going to full-back and Ridyard to his preferred half-back role. The latter was much happier there and a far bigger threat.

Batchelor had scored three minutes into his first match back at Bootham Crescent, against Barrow. This one took four minutes 18 seconds.

That Barrow game ended in a rout. This one was the opposite.

Leigh should have scored after breaking down the right with an overlap but York full-back Matty Marsh got across and the scrambling defence somehow halted the attack at the whitewash.

The infield kick was then dropped by Iain Thornley with the line begging.

York’s next points – a Robinson penalty for reefing – also followed a Leigh error, Josh Woods’ kick for territory going out on the full.

York’s first big error came on 22 minutes – Marsh dropping a kick on his own line - and Leigh were on top thereafter.

The hosts’ goal-line defence, like in the main against Bradford, initially made amends, forcing a forward pass. But they were still unable to get out of their own half and, after a penalty set another platform, they needed more desperate defence to keep the Centurions out, a combination of Jordan-Roberts, Cockayne and Jason Bass forcing Ridyard to spill when trying to touch down.

The pressure continued via a penalty and a dropout and a gap finally appeared for Andy Thornley to score and Ridyard convert.

Both sides were trying to play football in the drizzle but there was also a bit of niggle – Luke Adamson taking exception to Harry Carter’s late tackle on Richardson just before the interval. The players exchanged words going down the tunnel too.

Leigh’s line speed had been rapid and was so again on the resumption as the game, with the rain continuing to pour, became a war of attrition.

The Centurions went close from a kick to the corner as the bodies jumped for the ball – but Judah Mazive emerged with it to home cheers. Mazive had a strong game.

York had sight of the line too but, with an overlap, could not shift the ball quick enough as the defence scrambled over.

Marsh so nearly had a nightmare trying to keep a 40-20 in play before eventually conceding a dropout.

He was among the chasers that made amends from Ridyard’s dink in goal, denying Thornley the touchdown.

Immediately York had the chance to eke ahead with a penalty for ball stealing and Robinson obliged with the two-pointer from 42 metres to the right of the sticks, making it 8-6 on 58 minutes.

The sides spent the next 10 minutes trading errors as the rain got worse. After Whiteley spilled a kick, the Knights conceded a penalty for a hand in the tackle and Ridyard equalised.

The restart bounced out, though, giving York a rare attacking set and it ended with Robinson making it 9-8 with a drop goal.

However Leigh forced a dropout and when the ball was spilled in the first hit-up, referee Jamie Child gave a penalty for reefing.

It was a huge call but from 32 metres out Ridyard’s kick curled wide.

A Joe Porter spill gave them another attacking set but Ridyard’s drop goal went wide too.

Child came up with another huge call two minutes from time, penalising York for dragging Bentley into touch on half-way. If Child had called 'held', the players wouldn't have heard him due to the noise from the Main Stand.

Nevertheless Robinson brilliantly charged down Ridyard's next attempt and then Richardson's effort went wide.

The fans were still cheering that when the hooter sounded to an even greater noise.