CHESTER pushed the North One champions all the way at Hare Lane on Saturday, only to lose in the final minutes to a disputed try.
It was scored in the corner by the Bradford winger, even though it looked like Steve Johnson had once again pulled off a try-saving tackle by bundling the winger into touch.
The game started at a frantic pace with Chester retaining the ball well, switching play at every opportunity and trying to find a weakness in a well-organised Bradford defence.
The phases of play that Chester put together in this period was some of the best rugby the team had played all season, and against a lesser team would have been rewarded with points on the board.
After 10 minutes of continual pressure, Bradford finally cleared their lines and threatened to score, but their final pass was intercepted by Steve Johnson who raced the length of the pitch to score under the posts, making the conversion a mere formality for Murray King.
Chester then suffered the loss of their influential skipper Geraint Parry, who aggravated a knee injury which meant a shuffling of the backs, with Paul Evans-Jones moving into centre and Peter Walsh introduced on the wing for his first-team debut.
Chester continued to play open attractive rugby with Ellis and King continually probing to unlock the Bradford defence. With the all-Welsh Chester front row giving their opposite numbers a terrible beating up front and Withers and Sanger disrupting the Bradford lineouts, it was the back row of Chester, led by man-of-the-match Kyle Hedges, that continued to harass the Bradford three-quarter line and did not allow them to dominate.
Soon after the restart, Colin Ellis got his foot to the ball and, with the skills of Ryan Giggs, dribbled the ball to the try line to score.
King converted out wide and Chester were leading 14-3.
Bradford, if they had not realised it before, were now in a game and all credit to them as they began to fight their way back with some uncompromising forward drives and punishing centre thrusts. But the Chester defence held firm with Steve Burke leading the way with an outstanding defensive display.
With Chester down to 14 players and after a series of five-metre scrums and lineouts, Bradford's reserve prop scored in the corner to make the score 14-8.
Two minutes later, Bradford scored again to leave them one point behind. It now seemed as if Bradford would pull away, but Chester had other ideas and through resolute defence and a fair amount of skill, they kept their lead until the final minutes and that disputed touchdown.
Ellesmere Port 16 Dukinfield 17:
Ellesmere Port could be staring relegation in the face following this disappointing defeat against fellow strugglers Dukinfield at Whitby Sports & Social Club on Saturday.
Although they are still a point and a place above the bottom two, who go down, they must now win at Crewe & Nantwich on the final day of the season or hope that base-ment club Moore pull off a shock win at next-to-bottom Ormskirk.
Captain Steve Foster said: 'This was a golden opportunity for us and other results went our way, but we blew our chance with one of our worst performances of the season.'
Port conceded a try early on but battled back with a brace of penalties from Paul Millington and a Paul Watkinson try to lead 11-5 at the interval.
Dukinfield restored their lead early in the second half with a try under the posts before Phil Gow hit back almost immediately with a touchdown for Port.
However, the hosts could not hold on and conceded another try after some consistent Dukinfield pressure.
The Andrew Slawson & Partners man-ofthe-match was Gerry Phillip.