Sheffield TruPlant Tigers have left themselves with work to do if they want to win the 2023 Sports Insure Speedway Premiership KO Cup.
The club notched a 48-32 victory on the night at Owlerton, on a difficult night which saw rain fall on the home track, with the second leg in Suffolk set to decide who wins the trophy on Thursday.
After losing two of the first four heats, Tigers trailed 14-10, before they started to turn things around with a 5-1 heat advantage for Chris Holder and Josh Pickering against Emil Sayfutdinov and Erik Riss in heat five.
Tigers then went on to win the next four heats 4-2, building up a lead which put them 34-26 up after a dramatic heat nine, which needed a re-run after visiting reserve Keynan Rew crashed on the third bend. That had followed two re-runs in heat eight, first for starting issues, and then another after Erik Riss and Kyle Howarth both crashed at the first bend, all four riders re-starting.
There was a delay before racing resumed after the crash in heat nine, while track staff quickly changed the air fence, which deflated in the collision, with Rew excluded from the re-run.
But the eight point lead was as far clear as Sheffield managed, and Ipswich narrowed the gap to six points after a 4-2 success in heat 11.
Tigers came close to extending the lead again in an exciting heat 13, where guest rider Max Fricke twice overtook Ipswich riders in the race for points behind heat winner Tobiasz Musielak, but Sayfutdinov and Jason Doyle managed to secure a 3-3. Tigers did restore the eight point n heat 14, Josh Pickering and guest Kyle Newman winning 4-2 against Danyon Hume and Joe Thompson.
But in the final heat Sayfutdinov won ahead of Pickering, with Doyle holding off Musielak to give Ipswich a 4-2 heat advantage.
Pickering top scored for Sheffield with 11, paid 12, from five rides, while skipper Howarth also notched double figures finishing on 10. Former Tiger Danny King top scored for the visitors with 10 from four rides.
After the meeting, Tigers number three Chris Holder said: "At this time of the season all the meetings are pretty hard. Obviously to get the win is the most important thing. Six points is six points. It doesn't sound like much but when you're chasing, when you're behind, its not as easy as it seems. What can we say? We tried and we're looking forward to Ipswich and there's no reason why we can't turn them over down there too."
He described the track as a bit greasy, from the rain, and said that could have caught a few riders out. "A win's a win, we'll go down there on Thursday and give it a go," he added.
"It's the final, we'll be going there and trying to get the job done. "
Sheffield 48: Josh Pickering 11+1, Kyle Howarth 10, Tobiasz Musielak 9, Chris Holder 9, Kyle Newman 4, Jason Edwards 3+2, Max Fricke 2+1.
Ipswich 42: Danny King 10, Emil Sayfutdinov 9, Jason Doyle 8+2, Erik Riss 7, Keynan Rew 6, Danyon Hume 2, Joe Thompson 0.