Three tries in the final quarter pushed Cardiff closer to the double-chasing Llanelli than much of what had gone before would have suggested in an error-strewn cup tie at Parc y Scarlets.
The good news is that the Blue & Blacks made a decent fist of challenging the Premiership table-toppers; the bad news is that they were never ahead on the scoreboard while on the field they made life harder than need be for themselves with a succession of bad decisions as the scoring opportunities presented themselves.
This was not the Llanelli outfit that embarrassed Cardiff in the Premiership fixture back in November. With ten changes in their starting line-up they appeared, on paper at least, to have been vulnerable. But when the action was underway they again displayed their club's perennial virtues of maximising half-chances when they came their way.
Cardiff, meanwhile, had their own pluses with several creative incursions from the blind side wings, especially in the first half, but couldn't shake off their Achilles heel of 'final pass syndrome'. And when their ball in hand ambitions deserted them, Baldrick himself would not have been impressed with their overused cunning plan of booting the ball in the air so that the waiting ball catcher can be submerged by the chasing tackler. If the latter has any merit at all it may, just may, be in that it seemingly causes even more confusion in the minds of the match officials. Witness the bizarre scenes after Llanelli full-back Daniel Evans was duly grounded in one such incident only for his colleague, prop Ian Jones, to be binned after the ensuing (and inevitable) melee.
It was that sort of day with five yellow cards in all where Llanelli again outscored Cardiff 3-2 – but only in a negative sense. A familiar adversary, Luke Richards, fondly remembered for any number of outrageous 50-metre plus boomers against the Blue & Blacks over the years, opened Llanelli's account with a more prosaic 25-metre penalty in the 12th minute, cancelled out by a similar effort from Gareth Davies 13 minutes later. By then opposite numbers Kristian Gay (14th minute) and Ian Jones (24th) had already experienced the long march to their respective bins.
A more aesthetic pleasure, at least for the home contingent, was the immediate response to Davies' goal when centre Nic Reynolds scythed through for a try easily converted by Richards. Cardiff kept in touch by a second Davies penalty after Rhys Shellard had made the hard yards. The pantomime season was still alive and kicking as Llanelli's Andy Powell and Blue & Black Craig Everett departed together for ten minutes cooling off but deep in first half injury time Llanelli's pressure set up a two-man overlap on the left from which Luke Jones easily scored and Richards added the extras.
The omens were particularly bad in the opening ten minutes of the second half. A great carry by Wales under-20 prop Simon Gardner set up a converted try for fellow front-rower Ian Jones and then an exhausting build-up stretched Cardiff to the limit before wing Nick Jones squeezed in at the left corner. Llanelli were now running the show but the sin-binning of influential number 8 Dan Godfrey suddenly put them under the cosh. When they (again) collapsed the next five-metre scrum Lee Jarvis easily converted the penalty try.
Cardiff's outstanding figure throughout the game had been skipper Rhys Shellard and now he charged off the back of a lineout on the 22 and put Matthew Veater over at the posts for another seven-pointer. From the restart there was immediately a chance to add more points as Jarvis' high punt into Llanelli's half set up another penalty chance – only for the kick to drift wide from 38 metres.
But Cardiff were sensing opposition hesitancy and from a disrupted scrum Craig Everett, Ian George and Rhys James carried the ball before Shellard was on hand to provide the final pass before Craig Morgan crossed wide out. Jarvis hooked the difficult conversion but at 25-29 with over a dozen minutes still to play it was game on.
Unfortunately, Cardiff's courageous comeback fell just short. Llanelli camped in their half, played out a series of interminable pick and go's .... and the clock defeated the Blue & Blacks.