York Knights gave Leigh Leopards a scare in the Betfred Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals, running the Betfred Super League high-flyers close in a 14-34 defeat at the LNER Community Stadium.
Although the final score shows a 20-point margin, York held a two-score 14-6 lead just shy of the hour mark, having had the better of a first half which saw Kai O'Donnell sent off and Zak Hardaker sin-binned.
Leigh showed the class that sees them sit third in the Betfred Super League to score 28 unanswered points in the second half, but the Knights, as the Betfred Championship's last team standing in the Betfred Challenge Cup side, could leave with their heads held high for such a battling display in the face of a dozen absentees.
The complexion of the contest changed entirely when O'Donnell was sent off for a dangerous tip tackle on Josh Daley.
Stand-in half-back Daley was again in the wars when hit late by John Asiata, allowing Myles Harrison to convert a penalty goal after 15 minutes.
Leigh were down to 11 men when Hardaker was sin-binned for a late shot on debutant Adam Jones.
The Knights capitalised with the tie's first try - the returning Ata Hingano chipped over the top for the racing Brown to finish without a defender in sight. Harrison added the extras.
Leigh hit back through Joe Mellor as the former Wigan Warriors man profited from Hingano's fumble of a Lachlan Lam grubber. Gareth O'Brien cut the gap back to just two points.
York finished the half as the stronger side though. Hingano's kick wide appeared to have travelled too far but Towse leapt in the air to somehow keep the ball alive and allow Harrison to dive over.
The try-scorer added a penalty goal in the final action of the first 40 minutes, ensuring a 14-6 advantage at the break.
Back-to-back Leigh tries around the hour turned the contest back in favour of the Leopards.
Tom Amone steamed onto an Aaron Smith short ball under the sticks before Charnley dived in at the left corner from an overlap.
O'Brien converted the former, leaving Leigh 16-14 up, a position from which they never looked back.
Hardaker worked the ball out to the right edge to allow Tom Briscoe to cut inside and score and the numbers again favoured Leigh on the left, to give Charnley a walk-in with eight minutes to go.
Jack Teanby was sin-binned in the dying stages for a high tackle and at 12-against-12, Leigh finished in style, Briscoe touching down in the right corner.
Hardaker converted the final three tries to wrap up the victory although it could not mar a battling and determined display by the Knights against one of the best sides in the country.
York: Brown, Towse, Harrison, Jones, Ward, Hingano, Daley, Ta’ai, Jubb, Fitzsimmons, Field, Clarkson, Cunningham
Subs (all used): Kirby, Michael, Teanby, Sumner
Tries: Brown (18‘), Harrison (32’)
Goals: Harrison (3/4)
Sin-bin: Teanby (78’)
Leigh: O’Brien, Briscoe, Hanley, Hardaker, Charnley, Mellor, Lam, Amone, Davis, Mulhern, Nisbet, O’Donnell, Asiata
Subs (all used): Chamberlain, Smith, Wilde, Seumanufagai
Tries: Mellor (25‘), Amone (58‘), Charnley (61‘, 72’), Briscoe (67’, 80’)
Goals: O’Brien (2/3), Hardaker (3/3)
Sin-bin: Hardaker (17’)
Red Card: O’Donnell (6’)
Geoff Pryce Player of the Match in partnership with Isaac Poad Brewing: Myles Harrison
Referee: Jack Smith