Papua New Guinea came into this clash with France in good form, courtesy of a 38-20 win over Scotland, while France had suffered a shock disappointment to USA in Toulouse.
It was France who started the stronger though, their Super League experience showing as they began the game looking structured and professional.
That good start paid dividends in the 6th minute as five eighth Thomas Bosc dummied and ran himself from close to slice through left of the posts.
Bosc converted his own try for a 6-0 lead.
Nene McDonald hit back for Papua New Guinea in the 18th minute, touching down in remarkable circumstances after the video referee ruled a loose ball had gone forward off a Kumul head rather than hand.
Titans winger David Mead couldnt convert from out wide, leaving the score 6-4 in Frances favour.
France once again found their rhythm and dominated field position and possession, but in typical fashion, Papua New Guinea had their measure with brutal defence.
Papua New Guinea went close in the 33rd minute but left winger Josiah Abavu was bundled into touch by former Wests Magpie Clint Greenshields as he looked to ground the ball in the corner.
France were finding themselves met with a brick wall near the Kumuls goal line, so the diminutive Theo Fages came off the bench and decided to burrow under the Papua New Guinea defence in the 37th minute.
It was destined to remain a low-scoring half, though, with the video referee ruling Fages made a double movement in reaching the line. The desperate Kumuls were showing all the courage required by World Cup hopefuls.
This, the third game of the 14th Rugby League World Cup, was continuing the trend of hard fought, close scoring matches.
France would go to the break with a slender 6-4 lead.
Papua New Guinea showed they were ready to go just after the break, some brutal defence hammering into France from the kick off to force an error.
And they wasted no time in capitalizing, Joseph Abavu this time scoring in the left corner after a good play by the Kumuls.
Mead missed the kick, which left the score at 8-6, Papua New Guinea leading for the first time.
The Kumuls were now dominating the second half the way the French did the first.
After that early lapse, France were showing Papua New Guinea they were prepared to absorb the same relentless pressure.
Charlie Wabo was causing havoc close to the French line in the 62nd minute, but Les Chanticleers were showing they had the same fight in the as the Kumuls had shown.
France managed to repel that period of attack and a 40/20 by Bosc got the Frenchmen into good field position.
Papua New Guinea continued their assault in defence, but the referee ruled a loose ball was the result of a strip.
That gave Bosc the chance to level up from 35 metres out in the 38th minute. He made no mistake, despite team mates having to hold the ball on the tee in strong wind.
Halfback William Barthau then slotted a field goal in the 65th minute to once again give France an advantage.
That play was an indication of the quality and enthusiasm of both sides throughout the match.
Papua New Guinea again earned themselves good field position as France looked to bunker down in the last 10 minutes, but they seemed to be playing slightly panic football as the clock began to play on their minds.
The game took a dramatic turn in the 78th minute as Papua New Guinea were awarded a penalty in front of the posts 25 metres out.
French heads sunk as the Kumuls looked certain to steal victory in the final moments.
But David Mead failed to account for the wind and unbelievably missed.
France then had but to close out the game and made no mistake, giving the Hull crowd every bit of drama they might have hoped for coming into the game.
The French players went up as one as the final whistle rang out, claiming a thrilling 9-8 win over Papua New Guinea.