IT is funny how some dates stick out on the Saints timeline – and two Challenge Cup events of March 11 1984 and 1989 are etched into the memories of fans of a certain generation.

This time 35 years ago the town was dreaming of Wembley, having not been there since 1978, which seemed an absolute age.

Billy Benyon’s Saints had bounced through the opening rounds with good home wins over Leigh and Hull FC, the latter helped by a masterful display from Harry Pinner.

The third round pitched them against Alex Murphy’s Wigan – and after years in the doldrums, that had included relegation for years earlier, the sleeping giant was waking up.

The first obvious sign of that came turning on to Knowsley Road, for despite the torrential rain the Edington End was already rammed and inside the ground hastily scribbled sold out signs were up in the paddock.

The crowd was a staggering 20,007, not seen since the halcyon days of the 50s and early 60s.

To put it into context, there were only 3,375 at the next home game six days later against Hull.

Plenty had travelled over from Wigan – and it provided a magnificent backdrop and soundtrack to the game about to unfold.

Despite the rain, and it was proper sheeting it down, the under 17s curtain raiser went ahead and gave the pitch a steady going over.

This was not great, Saints had developed a style based around a mobile pack, with Peter Gorley moving up to 10 and second rows Paul Round and Andy Platt flying off the passes of playmaker Pinner.

In many ways the game saw the good, the bad and the ugly sides of rugby league.

In a tense battle, Saints had trailed 4-1 when 26 muddy figures left the arena at half time.

Sportingly, some would see naively, Saints lent the Riversiders a change of strip in the second half as they had not prepared for the conditions.

Saints finally hit the front, when the ball was fanned right and speedster Barrie Ledger dashed down the touchline for a super score, converted from the touchline by Clive Griffiths.

With a 7-4 lead, and the pitch a churned-up glue pot, all Saints had to do was play smart and keep the Cherry and Whites at bay. It was hard to make yards in the mud.

“Murphy, Murphy, what’s the score?” hollered the Popular Side as the clock ticked down.

Then inexplicably a moment of tactical ineptitude saw kicker Griffiths come off his wing on the last tackle to kick downfield……to the side of the field he had just vacated.

Now here is a matter for debate was it makeshift wing Shaun Edwards or centre David Stephenson who collected the ball. Either way they had a free run down the flank.

The cover just about tacked back, but the damage was done – the defence was bedraggled allowing John Pendlebury to plunge over.

Saints heads hit the floor, with Australian Mark Cannon then making doubly sure with the coup de grace.

Billy Benyon’s post match interview on Radio Merseyside said it all….”One silly mistake has cost us today, one stupid error….”

It was heartbreaking, especially as Wigan drew second division York in the semi-final and made it through to Wembley.

The Wigan ball was well and truly rolling, and getting to Wembley that year hastened their momentum which became unstoppable from the late 80s until Super League.

So that was the good, and the bad.

The ugly came in the hooliganism that marred the day with lads from both towns using the game as an excuse to knock seven bells out of each other.

It had started in town with a group of Wiganers launching the telly through the window in the Rope & Anchor, and nearer to the ground the Top Nogs’ front window was smashed in.

It continued inside the ground at the restaurant end. It was the sort of inter-town fighting, unrelated to rugby, that we thankfully don’t get at games any more.

It was rare, but that is what made it all the more shocking.

So that was 1984.

For a quick blast of 30 years ago.

Just picture the scene, Saints are the underdogs, playing the highly fancied Widnes in the Challenge Cup semi at Central Park.

The whole of the rugby league world wanted the two big Ws to go head to head at Wembley.

Remember, Widnes back then had a host of big names, including Martin Offiah, and had the luxury of keeping new signing Jonathan Davies sitting in the stand.

The Chemics, despite playing with 12 men following Richie Eyres dismissal for a trip (those were the days) were leading 14-12 with just three minutes remaining.

Then hooker Paul Groves threw an audacious dummy and raced through before throwing a long pass for Paul Loughlin to straighten up on to and send Les Quirk surging to the corner for the winning try.

There was bedlam – but Saints, for whom 17-year-old Gary Connolly and second row John Harrison had had fine games, still had a couple of minutes to hang on.

It was nice while it lasted.

The dream final was off – but sadly for Saints that would become a Wembley nightmare.