Clark hat-trick floors Widnes
Castleford pushed themselves into third place in the Super League table with a 40-20 victory over Widnes at the Select Security Stadium.
Hooker Daryl Clark grabbed a hat-trick of tries as the Tigers completed the double over the Vikings, having triumphed 34-22 in the first meeting of the sides at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Michael Shenton also touched down twice for the visitors, though the final scoreline didn't do justice to just how tight the game had been for an hour. Widnes had fought back from an 18-0 deficit to make a game of it, something they cannot afford to do when the teams meet again in the semi-finals of the Tetley's Challenge Cup.
The Vikings simply weren't able to recover from the early wounds inflicted by a shocking start that saw their defensive line breached three times in the opening 11 minutes.
Luke Dorn broke the deadlock when he collected a smart offload from Jamie Ellis, starting in the halves in place of Liam Finn, to grab his 12th try of a highly-productive season for the full-back.
A break by Shenton down the left side set up Oliver Holmes for a second Tigers score, with Hull-bound Marc Sneyd adding the extras again to make it 12-0.
When Clark trotted over for a try that had all stemmed from a poor kick-chase by the Vikings at the other end of the field just seconds before, the home fans greeted the ball being grounded underneath the posts with a chorus of boos.
Yet it wasn't long before the Widnes faithful's jeers turned to cheers, Paddy Flynn stepping off his right foot next to the touchline to cut inside and get the hosts off the mark.
A forward pass denied Patrick Ah Van a possible try on the left wing but there was nothing wrong with Danny Galea's second score in as many weeks, sheer power seeing him force his way over under pressure.
Danny Tickle kicked the extras for a second time to cut the gap to six, only for Castleford to strike a crucial blow just before the break through Shenton.
The centre joined Dorn on 12 league tries when he finished off a wonderful piece of skill by Sneyd, the half-back giving an example of just why the Black and Whites will fork out a six-figure fee to acquire his services from Salford as he fooled the defence by chipping over the top, instead of kicking deep on the last as Widnes had expected.
Still, the Vikings struck first after the break, Ah Van fending off Dorn to get across in the left corner, and it seemed they were set to move level when the same player picked off an errant pass to score again.
However, referee Phil Bentham ruled the winger had been offside before intercepting a ball by Dorn that looked certain to set up a team-mate, meaning the Tigers remained six ahead.
The decision, a correct one considering Ah Van had not retreated back onto his own try line, rather sucked the life out of the valiant Vikings, leading to them leaking three more tries in the final quarter.
Clark showed tremendous pace to not once but twice gallop in from long range after breaking free down the middle, his second-half brace sandwiching another effort for Shenton that saw the Castleford skipper go it alone with a dummy rather than use any of the team-mates to his left in support.
Sneyd converted all of them in his own rather quirky kicking style to finish with six goals from seven attempts and although Chris Dean did cross again for Widnes, it was merely a consolation effort. They will hope for a much different scoreline when th ey take on the Tigers again with a place at Wembley up for grabs.