United were at Valley Parade in front of the Sky TV cameras on Sunday night as the teams came together for their League Two play-off semi-final first-leg meeting.
Manager Paul Simpson made two changes from the side that earned a 1-1 draw at Sutton with Joe Garner and Joel Senior in for Kris Dennis and Jack Robinson respectively.
Both sets of fans were up for it with a fantastic atmosphere to accompany the build-up and the blowing of the first whistle, but there were clear nerves to be doused as passes and clearances went astray through the opening exchanges.
The first test for Holy was a long ball over the top that Cook chased. The stopper got there first with his thigh and Whelan completed the clearance.
Moxon was excellent with a sliding challenge inside his own box as Banks looked to break through, but there were huge appeals for a penalty at the other end when United broke. Senior and McCalmont had an overload, and it was the midfielder who surged onwards. He appeared to be dragged to the floor by Crichlow when he spun into the danger area but the referee ignored the appeals.
Neat play from the Bantams saw them keep possession high up the pitch on 10 minutes with Gilliead, Halliday and Clayton seeing plenty of it. Cook found himself in unexpected space when it came his way but he was wayward with a powerful drive from distance.
Tenacity from Senior right in front of the 2,440 away fans earned a free kick, and Moxon placed it to send it in. It fell nicely for Barclay and Armer, who both leaped to meet it, but a touch from the pair of of them took the sting out of it and Lewis was able to drop down to gather it.
An instinctive volley from Garner clipped the top of the bar as he linked with Patrick on the right flank, but the whistle had gone for a handball during the build up.
The Blues were undone on 18 minutes when another ball forward brought a cushioned header on the 18-yard line. That left Walker in space, and he was able to take a touch before drilling it underneath the stranded Tomas Holy.
A way through for Garner, Armer and Patrick was shut down as they tried to stay tight and find a hole, and it was almost perfect football as Moxon and Garner linked moments later to carve a way through. A slightly heavy touch allowed the tackle to be made.
Bradford got forward in numbers on the half hour with Smallwood at the forefront in midfield. He threaded a pass to Cook, and he clipped it to the back stick as he looked for support. It was cleared, but Walker and Banks were alert and they recycled the move. The lively Walker was a whisker away as he rifled it just past the upright from a very tight angle.
Carlisle played more eyecatching stuff as they moved the ball out of their own half at pace. Guy picked out Moxon, and he spread it wide to McCalmont. Blue shirts split left and right, and it was fed back for Moxon to cross. That was put behind for a corner, and there was controversy as a flick from the set piece struck Stubbs on the chest. It bounced a yard wide, but the away team were incensed when a goal kick was given.
McCalmont was felled just before the break as he tried to skip free down the left, and Moxon was once more on free kick duty. It was met by Whelan at the back post but he was on the stretch and he was disappointed to see it rise high.
Armer was strong in the challenge in time added on for the half and his raking pass down the touchline sent Patrick on a sprint. He was stopped in his tracks as he reached the bye line.
Holy had to be at his best with the last attack of the half when Banks got his head down to run with it at his feet. He poked it through chasing legs as he went into the box but the big stopper got down to get his hand to it, and it stuck, with him gathering it up before the loose pieces could be swept away.
A deflected Cook shot brought a corner with just 22 seconds on the second half clock, but that was cleared by Huntington.
Walker stumbled and eventually fell to the floor when he took a ball to the face from short range, but he recovered quickly and the concussion substitution protocol was avoided.
McCalmont sent one right at Lewis on the volley after a long throw from Barclay had been nodded his way, and Carlisle had numbers to spare when Smallwood misplaced apass in midfield. McCalmont rolled it for Garner to take on but he was quickly closed down.
Gilliead was next to pull the trigger, but he was twice charged down, and Smallwood was also smothered as he tried to find a shot. Clayton brought an end to that move when he sliced a wild effort into the stands.
A pulsing run from Edmondson gave Carlisle a corner as he had it robbed off his toe, and the awy fans thought they'd equalised as Whelan jumped to meet the Moxon inswinger. It was on target but it lacked power and Lewis was comfortable as he stepped across to claim it.
Carlisle had a real chance to level things up on 68 minutes when Crichlow tried to shield a ball out of play. Edmondson was having none of it, and he used strength to wrestle the ball into his path. He managed to strike low and under Lewis, but Armer was disappointed as he arrived late to rattle it into the side netting.
Whelan was on the end of yet another Moxon corner, but it was off the top of his head on this occasion and it looped high over the target.
There was action at both ends and Huntington was excellent as he got in the way of Cook, who had let one go from 20-yards having been fed through by Gilliead.
The Cumbrians should have been on the scoresheet on 75 minutes when Armer whipped a beauty into the mix from the left wing. Edmondson lost his marker, but he somehow put his close range header on the dive over when it looked like he was about to spark the celebrations.
United kept knocking on the door, but the creaking back line somehow survived the scares, as Whelan, Armer and Senior sent testers into the box.
A late chance came the way of the Blues when Dennis was played clean through by Charters, but Lewis was off his line smartly to close things down. The striker was forced wide and his effort on the spin sailed past the nets.
There being no further incident of note it was left as all to play for in the second leg next Saturday.
Bradford City - Walker (18)
Carlisle United - Whelan (8), Garner (32)
Bradford City - Lewis, Halliday, Ridehalgh, Smallwood (c), Cook, Walker (Osadebe 65), Gilliead, Banks (Platt 7), Crichlow, Stubbs, Clayton (Derbyshire 87). Subs - Doyle (gk), East, Pereira, Nevers.
Carlisle United - Holy, Barclay, Huntington (c), Whelan, Senior (Gibson 85), McCalmont, Guy (Charters 69), Moxon, Armer, Patrick (Dennis 58), Garner (Edmondson 58). Subs - Kelly (gk), Robinson, Harris.
Referee - Ross Joyce
Assistant Referee 1 - Lisa Rashid
Assistant Referee 2 - Leigh Crowhurst
Fourth Official - Scott Oldham
Observer - Colin Webster
Reserve Assistant Referee - Ravel Cheosiaua
Attendance - 20,575 (2,415)