Injury-hit Sheffield have one hand on the SGB Championship trophy after beating Ipswich by 16 points in the play-off final first leg at Owlerton.
Number one Josh Grajczonek was forced to withdraw after two rides but the Sheffield Window Centre Tigers still mustered five maximums at key times in a 53-37 victory.
Yorkshire’s own Josh Bates led three of them, bagging four wins from five overall, but despite being red-hot favourites for the title Sheffield will be all too aware of their double-figure defeats in Suffolk during the regular campaign.
Grajczonek took a shared opener from the gate but Tigers fans did not have to wait long for something to cheer as Georgie Wood and Jan Graversen grasped the nettle for an easy 5-1 in the reserve race.
That lead was doubled to eight points when Bates was joined up top by Lasse Bjerre who got the better of Cameron Heeps.
The visitors hit back through Rory Schlein’s tapes-to-flag win but Kyle Howarth limited the damage by powering beyond Tom Bacon on the third turn of the opening lap.
Bates and Bjerre sealed back-to-back maximums after Danny King was left with nowhere to go from gate four but Ipswich battled on and Schlein led another Witches 4-2 with Nathan Greaves in third despite being clipped by Grajczonek at the back,
That incident saw Sheffield’s talisman pull out before Howarth almost got the better of Heeps in a shared seventh with Graversen’s pass of Kyle Newman at the rear crucial for the hosts.
And the Tigers had another maximum up their sleeves as Todd Kurtz stormed past quick-starter Greaves on lap, a move matched by Graversen prior to the back straight of the second circuit.
A battle of the shining lights saw Bates get passed but then roar back in front of Schlein in the third lap of a 4-2 in heat nine and the 14-point lead was maintained at the interval despite Newman taking a chequered flag and his first points of the night in the 10th.
Greaves produced a spirited ride to bag third from Graversen as King won heat 11 and the Wolverhampton reserve then led Ipswich’s sole 5-1 to keep things interesting. The visitors gated strongly with Bjerre and Heeps trading blows before the Australian stood firm.
In trademark fashion, Sheffield hit back with skipper Howarth blasting around the boards to get the better of King while Bates crucially held off Schlein at the back.
Greaves gated again but simply could not resist the charges of Bates and Graversen as Sheffield heaped on the pressure and buoyed by previous ride, Howarth then took heat 15 from the gate with Bjerre’s third enough to rubber stamp a mammoth lead.
Sheffield Window Centre Tigers 53: Josh Bates 13, Kyle Howarth 13, Jan Graversen 7+4, Lasse Bjerre 7+2, Todd Kurtz 7, Josh Grajczonek 3, Georgie Wood 3.
Ipswich 37: Danny King 9, Nathan Greaves 9, Rory Schlein 8, Cameron Heeps 6+1, Kyle Newman 4, Tom Bacon 1, Justin Sedgmen R/R.