It was 9th v 5th in the final match of Magic Weekend Saturday in Newcastle, as Leeds sought to continue their climb into the play-offs and Castleford looked to secure their place in the post-season clashes which decide the title.
After a shakey start to the season, when both teams looked like they would be struggling with the opponents in the day's opening match and looking fearfully at the bottom of the table and possible relegation.
But the Tigers and the Rhinos had both started putting a winning run together in recent weeks and the question at St James's Park was who would continue that run and who would stutter to another loss.
Cas welcomed back first choice fullback Niall Evaldss, but injury saw mercurial winger Greg Eden slot into the halves alongside Danny Richardson and Adz Milner returned to his original position of hooker in place of the suspended Paul McShane.
A minor leg injury ruled out Leeds half Blake Austin, who was replaced by Corey Johnson, with Kruise Leeming replaced by youngster Jarrod O'Connor. But they came into the game after an outstanding victory against Hull FC last week.
Leeds got the game under way. Castleford had the best of the opening sets, but the Rhinos defence held them out for the first 10 minutes befoe their own attack started to look dominant.
As they pressed the Tigers' line, prop Matt Prior ran forward, spun out of a tackle and dived over for four points and his fourth try of the season. Rhys Martin converted for a 6-0 Rhinos lead.
But with 21 minutes gone, the Castleford right edged moved the ball rapidly out to Bureto Faraimo on the touchline he sprinted forward and as the Leeds defenders approached, kicked infield for his centre Jake Mamo to pick up and score. Richardson kicked the conversion and the scores were level at 6-6.
Five minutes later O'Connor powered over from a play-the-ball on the line, but Evalds kept the Leeds hooker and the ball off the grass.
Faraimo scored the next try for the Tigers, burrowing over from dummy half two minutes from half time after Mamo was stopped just a metre short of the Rhinos try-line.
Richardson couldn't convert this time, but Castleford now led 10-6, where the score stayed as the hooter sounded for the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Leeds levelled the scores. A knock-on by Eden at a play-the-ball 20 or so metres out gifted the Rhinos posession and clever movement of the ball out to the left gave Ash Handley an open try-line on the edge.
He made no mistake in dashing forward to dot the ball down and Martin made no mistake with his kick to give Leeds a 12-10 lead. The Rhinos camped on the Castleford line for the next 10 minutes, forcing the Tigers to defend set after set.
And when the team in black and orange did get into the Leeds 20, they gave away a penalty for offside. The kick to touch saw them defending their line again.
And when Leeds opted to run the ball on the last tackle, a pass to Aidan Sezer saw him race through the first line of Castleford defence and ground the ball despite the attention of two Tigers. Martin kicked the conversion and the scoreline stood at 18-10.
Five minutes later, Sutcliffe broke ran through the Castleford line before kicking to the left for Richie Myler to pick up and score for his second try of the season. Martin had a rare miss on the conversion, hitting the post, but Leeds now led 22-10.
That moved to 26-10 when James Bentley ran onto a cleverly worked pass and sliced through the Cas defence. Martin, kicking from in front of the sticks, had no trouble making it 28-10.
Liam Sutcliffe was next to score, on 68 minutes, ignoring an overlap on the left edge to power through two defenders himself. Martin's kick made it 34-10.
But Faraimo hit back for the Tigers, running through in the corner to make it 34-14, although Richardson couldn't convert.
Sezer found himself yellow carded for a high tackled on Richardson as the clock hit 77 minutes with Cas pressing for a consolation try. A minute later, that try came with an Evalds tip-on pass to Mahe Fonua which saw him race over in the right corners. A conversion kick from Richardson made the score a more respectable 34-20.
More of a come-back was beyond the Tigers, though, against a Rhinos team playing with the freedom and openness which Rohan Smith seems to have brought to the team.
Leeds are now within touching distance of the top six, while Cas were left to say goodbye to a five-year winning record at Newcastle.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T); Fusitu'a, Hardaker, Sutcliffe (T), Handley (T); Johnson, Sezer (T, SB-77); Oledzki, O'Connor, Prior (T), Bentley (T), Martin (5G), Smith. (Subs: Dwyer, Gannon, Walters, Donaldson).
Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Fonua (T), Mamo (T), Farimo (2T); Eden, Richardson (2G); Lawler, Milner, Griffin, Edwards, Mellor, Westerman, (Subs: Watts, Smith, Matagi, Martin).
Half Time: 6-10.
Full Time: 34-20.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10. HT. 10-10, 12-10, 16-10, 18-10, 22-10, 26-10, 28-10, 32-10, 34-10, 34-14, 34-18, 34-20
Lead Exchanges: Leeds - Castleford - Leeds
Referee: Ben Thaler.