TWELVE-MAN York City Knights pulled an astonishing victory out of the fire at a red hot Bootham Crescent to pip Dewsbury Rams and bolster their play-off ambitions.

James Ford’s men, it seems, just don’t know when they are beaten.

The Knights played a total of 38 minutes with 12 men and five with 11, due to back-to-back yellow cards in the first half and a red early in the second, and they seemed sure to pay the price as a Paul Sykes drop goal with eight minutes left put the visitors 21-20 ahead.

The hosts had also lost talismanic half-back Connor Robinson to injury for the last half-hour.

However, in a stunning last-gasp finale at the end of a most eventful contest, Matty Marsh darted onto a Liam Harris grubber kick to touch down and steal a stunning 24-21 victory from the jaws of defeat.

There was one minute 40 seconds left.

It was joy unabashed for the home ranks as the final hooter sounded and, fittingly in this most remarkable of seasons, the Shed Seven hit It’s Getting Better (all the time) blasted out over the speakers as the teams departed to the changing rooms.

It wasn’t all roses, mind, as the loss of Robinson, coupled with the premature retirement due to a knee injury of fan favourite Ben Cockayne, could leave the team with a big hole to fill going forward.

But, in the circumstances, this seemed like a huge victory as the race for the top five in the Championship hots up.

Ford, having rung the changes for the midweek 1895 Cup tie against Batley, rung them back again, with the line-up much more familiar.

There were still changes to the side that which won at Swinton last weekend, though, with the hooking duo of Harry Carter and Kriss Brining both back, Will Oakes replacing Jason Bass on the wing, Brad Hey chosen over Josh Jordan-Roberts in the second row and likewise Jack Blagbrough over Jordan Baldwinson as replacement prop. Oakes’ work to set up a Harris try was sensational.

York endured a nightmare start. Indeed, the late finale was their second comeback of the day, the team having trailed 14-0 after the first quarter.

Dewsbury’s kick-off landed in no man’s land and was recovered by the visitors.

Sam Scott made amends with a terrific try-saver on Sykes but the Rams still went ahead as Liam Finn – Sykes’ partner in an experienced half-back pairing – dummied and darted in. Sykes converted.

The Rams continued to win contacts and make all the breaks, York’s tackling being worryingly awry. A couple of turnovers didn’t help either.

It duly became 10-0 on 12 minutes.

Sykes chipped to the York’s left corner where opposing wingers Perry Whiteley and Rob Worrincy challenged for the ball. It went loose, and Worrincy was adjudged to have touched it down.

Two minutes later it got worse – skipper Tim Spears sin-binned for a trip in centre-field.

Five minutes later, it got worse again – second-row Scott sin-binned for a tip-tackle.

The 11 men held up Owen Trout over the whitewash but in the very next play the same player had space to dive into the corner to make it 14-0.

York kept turning over the ball in bad places. Marsh fielded a kick by the sideline but, having not gone to ground, had no option but to throw the ball back inside rather than go into touch, with the Rams regaining possession. Then Robinson’s attempted 40-20 bounced on the touchline rather than inside it.

However, the visitors were denied further scores, missing one notable chance when ignoring a big overlap, and, three minutes after going back up to 13, the Knights struck back.

The home fans had been fired up when Rams forward Dan Igbinedion, having just played the ball, threw what they claimed was a punch at Liam Harris but what the referee deemed only an aggressive shrug, giving York a penalty but with no card shown.

But with the backing getting louder and the Knights’ play getting speedier, a good attack ended with Oakes driving close and Brining, aided by a quick play-the-ball, digging in.

Notably, Ford called the players over for an impromptu team talk near the dug-out as Robinson added the conversion.

Whatever he said worked as, three minutes later, they scored again - Sam Scott feeding namesake Cam Scott to arc in down the left touchline, with Robinson adding a fine conversion.

They could have gone ahead on half-time, too, as Harris broke through the line. He had support on either side but, with covering defence making a scoring pass difficult, he held on and was tackled at whitewash.

Nevertheless, he was prevented from playing the ball and, as the hooter sounded, Robinson kicked the penalty for a 14-14 interval scoreline.

The Knights nearly took the lead on the resumption – hooker Brining going from 10 metres but being held up over the whitewash.

But moments later came a brilliant try.

Oakes fielded a kick in his own half, arced right and set off flying down the right wing.

The cover was coming across but the winger fired a quite brilliant long pass inside for Harris to finish. One for the season’s highlights reel.

Scrum-half Robinson was being treated for a leg injury at the time, deep in Dewsbury’s half, so Harris took over the goalkicking and added the two to make it 20-14.

However, then came big blows – Aussie ref Matt Rossleigh back at the centre of it.

Prop Ronan Dixon, to the shock and dismay of the home camp, was shown a straight red card for a high tackle on Rams winger Andy Gabriel, leaving the Knights, having already been shorthanded in the first half, to play the last 33 minutes with only 12 men.

Furthermore, the talismanic Robinson, having tried to limp on, had to depart.

Whiteley, Cam Scott and Matty Marsh also needed treatment, while Carter was also whacked high - the fans being further incensed when no censure followed.

York’s tackling was so much better than in the opening quarter but Dewsbury’s extra man brought reward on 64 minutes as Worrincy dived into the corner.

Liam Finn took over the goalkicking from Sykes and nailed a beauty to level the scores.

Sykes’ boot was still to play a big part, as it was he who put his side ahead with a drop goal with eight minutes left.

That looked like being that for the 12 men.

However, Worrincy erred under a Harris bomb to offer the hosts one last chance and, rather than go for an equalising drop goal, they went for a winning try – and got it.

Marsh had been the Rams’ nemesis at Tetley’s Stadium earlier in the season with a last-gasp winner, and the full-back was at it again here, to send the crowd into raptures.