|Salford (8) 24|
|Try: Watkins, Inu, Greenwood, Lussick Goals: Inu 4|
|Warrington (14) 22|
|Tries: King, Austin, Murdoch-Masila Goals: Ratchford 2, Widdop 3|
Spirited Salford came from behind to beat Warrington 24-22 and reach their first Challenge Cup final in 51 years.
Holders Wolves led 14-8 at the break as scores from Toby King and Blake Austin were answered by a Kallum Watkins try.
Krisnan Inu touched down to cut the lead, only for Ben Murdoch-Masila to again extend Warrington’s advantage.
James Greenwood gave Salford hope before Joey Lussick powered over to set up a behind-closed-doors final with Leeds at Wembley on 17 October.
Warrington, who beat St Helens at Wembley last year and were bidding to reach their third successive final, dominated much of the game in terms of possession and territory.
But they were unable to shake off Ian Watson’s dogged Salford side, who have reached the final for the first time since losing to Castleford in 1969 and a year after beating the odds to reach an unlikely Grand Final.
Salford fought back from 18-0 behind to beat Warrington in a Super League game between two much-changed teams in midweek after coming from 12-0 down to win in extra time against Catalans Dragons in the quarter-finals, and again showed their tenacity in this pulsating semi-final.
They withstood a period of early Warrington pressure in rain-lashed St Helens before finally falling behind when a man short after Tyrone McCarthy had been sent to the sin-bin for a reckless tackle.
Wolves made the most of their numerical advantage by spreading the play wide for King to score in the corner, with Stefan Ratchford’s conversion and later penalty seemingly giving them a controlling 8-0 lead.
But Salford hit back with 12 men when Warrington full-back Matty Ashton was unable to gather Tui Lolohea’s grubber kick and Watkins raced in to touch down.
Austin dummied his way over to give Warrington a six-point half-time lead, only for Inu to claim Kevin Brown’s high kick to reduce Salford’s arrears immediately after the restart.
Warrington appeared to have breathing space once again when Murdoch-Masila went over against his former club.
But Salford, whose only Challenge Cup win came in 1938, refused to give in as Greenwood won the race to touch down Brown’s angled grubber kick before Lussick powered his way over from close range to seal the Red Devils’ trip to Wembley.
‘We wanted the rain’ – post-match reaction
Salford half-back Kevin Brown told BBC Two:
“It feels great. I thought the conditions played a big part for us. We spoke about having a resilience and hanging in there and we did that in bucket loads today.
“We said it was not going to look pretty, and if you try to play pretty in this you will get beaten. Some of the better players try to force it but we were trying to be patient and it worked for us. It took 75 minutes but we got there.
“We wanted the rain, we wanted the mud because Warrington have some great players, so it was a leveller.”
Warrington coach Steve Price told BBC Two:
“Execution was the difference. When we had our good ball sets and they came up with a few errors, we didn’t execute and they handled the conditions better.
“We pride ourselves in doing the little things and we didn’t hit the mark today.
“We went eight points in front and were in control but credit to Salford, they were the better team today.”
Salford: Sarginson, Williams, Watkins, Welham, Inu, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, McCarthy, Greenwood, Flanagan.
Interchanges: Burke, Ikahihifo, Kear, Pauli.
Warrington: Ashton, Charnley, Gelling, King, Mamo, Ratchford, Widdop, Hill, D. Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Austin
Interchanges: Murdoch-Masila, J. Clark, Philbin, Walker.