Doncaster RLFC effectively secured their place in the League One Super 8s play-offs despite going down to a 38-22 defeat against Rochdale Hornets at Spotland.
Although beaten Hunslet Hunslet can draw level on points with the Dons, who dropped to fifth, if they win at Spotland and the Keepmoat Stadium club lost their two remaining games, they would also need to overturn a 135 points difference to pip them.
The Dons, who can still finish fourth if they beat both York and London, got off to a disastrous start when conceding a first-minute try.
The Dons regrouped but winger Corey Lee would have doubled Rochdale’s lead but for a try-saving tackle by David Foggin-Johnston.
It was Hornets turn to defend as stand-off Jordan Howden, who missed the league defeat at Spotland back in July, forced the home side to boot the ball dead as he challenged for skipper Kyle Kesik’s trademark grubber-kick.
The visitors remained on the attack and drew level on 15 minutes when the in-form Foggin-Johnston touched down from a kick to the corner by scrum-half Jordie Hedges.
Very much second-best in the opening quarter in the league defeat, the Dons took a 10-4 lead on 18 minutes when winger Louis Sheriff touched down for a converted try after Carr’s grubber-kick had taken a fortunate deflection.
Carr was also involved in Doncaster’s third try shortly before the half-hour mark, which he again converted to make it 16-4, when selling an outrageous dummy to send centre Aaron Jones-Bishop over.
The Dons then had to dig deep defensively as shell-shocked Hornets sought a way back into a game.
Cookson threw his side a lifeline when touching down for a converted try on 36 minutes following the sort of expansive rugby which saw Hornets finish the regular season in second place.
Rochdale levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time with a converted try by full-back Chris Riley prior to regaining the lead with a well-worked try by centre Lewis Galbraith on 47 minutes.
Galbraith then assumed the try-saver role, denying Matty Welham after he had collected a high kick and ran 70 metres.
Dons hopes suffered another blow when Hornets scored their fourth try without reply to open up a 26-16 lead with just over 20 minutes left. Any outside hopes a fading Doncaster side might have entertained were dashed as Hornets stretched their lead to 32-16. But they hit back in spirited style twice being held up just short prior to Hornets bombing a great chance.
The Dons looked set to have the final word after Hedges and Foggin-Johnston set-up a 79th minute converted try for Jones-Bishop, but Hornets struck again at the death.
*DONS: Carr, Foggin-Johnston, Jones-Bishop, Doherty, Sheriff, Howden, Hedges; B Nicholson, Kesik, Connor, Tonks, Walton, Milton. Subs: Wright, M Welham, Castle, Pickets-O’Donnell.