Cardiff Blues responded in style as they secured an impressive Guinness PRO14 victory over the Scarlets at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Stunning first-half tries from Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo had given the Blues an 18-10 lead and the Scarlets task was made all the harder by a red card to Liam Williams.
The visitors showed plenty of fortitude as they came flying out of the blocks in the second-half and they temporarily regained the lead following a Sione Kalamafoni try.
However Cardiff Blues kept their patience and the pressure eventually told as Tomos Williams scored the crucial try and Jarrod Evans kicked his side out of reach.
It had been a tumultuous week for the capital city charges following a disappointing derby defeat to the Ospreys and the departure of head coach John Mulvihill due to personal reasons.
Dai Young was signed as interim director of rugby and will start the role on Monday but it was defence coach Richard Hodges that led the side in the build-up to the final festive derby.
Cardiff Blues made a flying start to the encounter as Cory Hill stole an early lineout and a Tomos Williams snipe released Josh Adams down the blindside.
The wing kicked ahead perfectly and while Gareth Davies was first to the ball, he was clattered over his own try-line to give Cardiff Blues a scrum.
Craig Davies penalised Cardiff at the set-piece, despite replays appearing to show it was Phil Price that dropped. The Scarlets cleared but after securing possession and hitting up the middle, Liam Belcher got over the ball to secure a turnover penalty.
Evans slotted the penalty to give his side the early advantage but the Scarlets surged in front with the opening try on 13 minutes.
The Blues had been defending well after Dan Jones kicked to the corner and knocked the Scarlets back through multiple phases. However, when the attacking play became unstructured, the visitors switched direction and found an over-lap, which gave Jonathan Davies a simple dummy and finish.
Halfpenny added the extra to give Scarlets a 3-7 lead but it lasted only five minutes as Wales’ Capital Region hit back in style.
Shane Lewis-Hughes took the ball flat and slipped the ball to Jarrod Evans in the back-field. The fly-half then sold a delicious dummy to try-scorer Davies to slice inside.
The Scarlets had three men covering but the damage was done as Evans moved the ball to Halaholo and the centre skipped away from Liam Williams for a fine try.
Evans’ conversion sailed agonisingly to the right but the try had given the hosts a slender one-point lead.
Cardiff Blues had clearly been given a licence to thrill as they attacked from all areas with Tomos Williams ensuring tempo was maintained and Evans a box of tricks.
A thunderous hit and rip from Rey Lee-Lo on Johnny Williams allowed another attack and Williams raced up field. He fed Halaholo and the centre looked odds on to power over as burst through two defenders but he was held just short.
Just as Cardiff Blues recycled possession and went for the kill, Gareth Davies raced off his try-line to take his opposite number man and ball but all he managed was a deliberate knock on.
Davies was duly sent to the sin bin and Evans took the points on offer to make it 11-7. The Blues struggled to take further advantage of the yellow card period and Dan Jones hit back for the hosts.
But they soon struck for another stunning team try. Evans unlocked the west Walian defence with another dummy that saw him slice between Tevita Retuva and Sam Lousi.
He weaved his magic and then passed outside to Tomos Williams who showed some equally dazzling footwork before an outrageous offload out the back, which gave Lee-Lo a sniff.
The centre had it all to do and went for the corner with Javan Sebastian in defence. The prop hit Lee-Lo leading with the shoulder but with barely any space to finish the Samoan managed to keep his leg cocked and dotted down.
Evans added the conversion to make it 18-10 and there was more drama to come in the closing minutes of the half.
The Scarlets had possession just inside Blues territory and there was no threat at the breakdown. However Liam Williams flew into the contact area recklessly and collided head first into the prone head of Shane Lewis-Hughes.
Incensed Lewis-Hughes required treatment and finally Craig Evans called for the TMO and following several replays he had no choice.
Williams was given his marching orders but ensured he went out of his way to apologise and shake hands with his Wales teammate following his rush of blood.
Following the half-time break, 14-men Scarlets had regained their composure ad upped the intensity with Dan Jones displaying an impressive kicking game.
Halfpenny cut the Blues’ lead to five and the Scarlets continued to exert pressure. A series of penalties secured by their giant pack piled the pressure on Cardiff Blues and following a succession of five metres Sione Kalamafoni exploded off the back for a try.
Halfpenny added the extras to give the Scarlets a two-point lead and the visitors soon had another penalty they sent to the 22 after Rhys Carré was sin-binned for a no arms tackle.
It appeared ominous but the west Walians were penalised at the lineout to give Cardiff Blues a reprieve and they soon struck.
Following a succession of phases in which they went from side to side, without making any notable yards before Evans dinked a cross kick to the corner.
James Botham soared above the Scarlets defence to tap the ball into his path and regather, he stepped inside Stef Evans and then outside but was double hit by centre Davies and the recovering Evans.
He deserved a try for the athletic effort but will have few complaints as Williams sniped over from the next phase to regain the lead.
Evans effort from the right touchline was a shave to the right of the posts but he made amends on 74 minutes to make it 26-20.
The Guinness Player of the Match added another penalty late on to put the result beyond doubt and make it a second festive win for his side.