The Blue & Blacks' roller-coaster ride through the Premiership campaign continued in typical style at a windy St Helens.
After conceding a converted try within 90 seconds of the kick-off, they replied with a Tom James' touchdown with still only four minutes on the clock and led after half an hour, only to fall behind again before the interval. They showed little sign of redeeming the situation until the protracted injury time at the end of the match. When the seven-man Whites' pack went up for the fourth time in a five-metre scrum under their posts, referee Hugh Watkins awarded the penalty try that settled the match.
It was in every way a match of contradictions : both sides played better when facing the strengthening wind; Cardiff posed a real threat to the Swansea lineout until the closing stages; Swansea comfortably defended their line for several phases while reduced temporarily to 13 men.
The Blue & Blacks fielded what looked on paper their strongest and most experienced pack for several seasons. Alongside skipper Matthew Veater, again impressive, were Blues' recruits Bradley Davies and Mark Lewis and Darren Allinson and Wales' cap Tom James added an extra glitz behind the scrum. Another regional graduate, Rhys Shellard, ruled the roost at the breakdown for large chunks of the game. But nothing quite clicked.
The visitors were caught cold in the second minute when sloppy play in defence was punished by the Whites and wing Rhys Jones got his hands on the ball at a ruck on the line for the try. Nicky Thomas converted from wide out and into the swirling wind and trumped even that in the ninth minute with a monster 60-metre penalty. That extended his side's lead to 10-5 after Tom James had too much power and pace from his first touch of the ball for a try.
In the 12th minute Lee Jarvis, now past 1200 points for the club, slotted an easy goal from 20 metres but all his skill was needed five minutes later to convert Gareth Chapman's try from the right touchline. Thomas replied for Swansea with a 25-metre effort but Cardiff looked to have the upper hand when first Habir Singh and then prop Tim Evans were carded for killing the ball. But Jarvis' goal for Singh's transgression was cancelled out by another kick from Thomas.
Most embarrassing of all, two overlaps were wasted near Swansea's line and when they finally reached Cardiff's 22 scrum-half Nathan Jones sneaked over for a try, converted by Thomas, while still down to 13 men. At 18-16, the Whites just about deserved their lead at the interval.
The error count grew in the second half, with Cardiff signally failing to use the wind at their backs to any advantage. Jarvis did kick his third penalty goal in the 45th minute but another from Thomas at the end of the third quarter when Kristian Gay was yellow-carded restored the home lead at 26-21.
There it stayed until the seventh minute of added time. Three scrums under Swansea's posts were re-set, and with Singh then sent-off for his second yellow card, the fourth time the forwards packed down was sure to be the denouement. So it was. Up went the Whites' front row, up too went referee Watkins' arm for the penalty try, and Gareth Davies added the extras for the last gasp win.