The Valley Commandoes stormed into PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP contention with a five-point victory over Connacht in a thrilling match in Athlone.
The Irish minnows face a daunting trip to Sardis Road next weekend in the second leg of the quarter-final, needing to make up the deficit to remain in the tournament.
Pontypridd were 13-17 down at the break, but looked dangerous throughout. Three second-half tries put the matter beyond doubt and Lynn Howells' men are raging hot favourites to make the semi-finals.
Connacht fly-half Eric Elwood opened the scoring with a fifth-minute penalty goal, but missed the chance to double the score in the 13th minute. The rare miss was echoed by Pontypridd fullback Brett Davey, who sent a penalty goal attempt wide.
Davey made immediate amends by breaking the Connacht defence up the middle. He linked with Johnny Bryant and Geraint Lewis before fly-half Ceri Sweeney joined the attack with a devastating burst. He drew the final defender and sent winger Emyr Lewis over untouched for a superb 80m team try. Davey twisted the knife with a sideline conversion.
The Sardis Road men didn't rest on their laurels, with the forward pack showing great hands to drive their way into the opposition 22m and earning a shot at goal. Replacement Neil Jenkins - on for injured centre Sonny Parker - took over the kicking duties and made no mistake.
Connacht brought the home crowd to their feet when backrower Colm Rigney took a short pass off a ruck 40m and galloped over for a stunning try, leaving Davey grasping at thin air in the process. Elwood's conversion levelled the scores.
A second Jenkins penalty goal restored Pontypridd's lead, before Connacht lock Rowan Frost drove over the line as the scoreboard attendants struggled to keep up with the action-packed game. Elwood's conversion took the score to 17-13 and 30 points had been scored in as many minutes.
Both sides had chances to improve their lot entering the break, but the excitement of the match began to get to the players, and the finishing passes were more hopeful than accurate.
Long-range Connacht goal-kicker Mark McHugh had the chance to extend the home side's lead with a 48m attempt at goal in the last minute of the first half, but it never looked like going over.
Jenkins missed an attempt at goal early in the second half, but 22-year-old replacement centre Shaun James had the legion of visiting fans smiling with a well-taken try in the lefthand corner to give his side a one-point lead.
Like most leads in this enthralling match, it didn't last long. Elwood slotted his second penalty goal from in front as the match swung back Connacht's way.
Not for long. Jenkins slotted a penalty goal when Connacht's replacement fullback James Norton was lucky to escape a yellow card with a professional foul on his tryline, and another great try - this time to hard-working backrower Lewis - took the score to 28-20 in Pontypridd's favour.
The home fans were stunned by Lewis' score, but nothing could have prepared them for the next score. Pontypridd winger Gareth Wyatt took the ball back into the Connacht pack 30m out, and with the Irishmen refusing to tackle him, he scampered over for another stunning try.
Connacht winger Wayne Munn scored two consolation tries to give the 6,000-strong crowd hope, but it proved too little too late.
Connacht: Tries - C Rigney, R Frost, W Munn 2; Pen - E Elwood 2; Cons - E Elwood 2.
Pontypridd: Tries - E Lewis, S James, G Lewis, G Wyatt; Con - B Davey, N Jenkins 2; Pen - N Jenkins 3. Halftime: Connacht 17-13.