Scott Moore’s try on the final play of the game finally settled an absorbing clash in which Bulls hit back from 12-0 down to trail by only two points.
Defeat means Bradford, Super League champions exactly 10 years ago, will remain in the Championship for a second successive season.
It was the fourth time since joining the top-flight in 1999 Wildcats have won on the final day of the campaign to preserve their Super League status.
They could have made an easier afternoon of it, but Bradford staged a thrilling fightback in the second half.
Wildcats led 6-0 at the break thanks to Danny Kirmond’s try, after 15 minutes, which was converted by Joe Arundel.
Arundel touched down soon afterwards, but Tom Johnstone’s pass was ruled forward. The centre also missed with a penalty attempt late in the half.
Bulls twice got over the line, but were denied by video referees Phil Bentham and Robert Hicks. Johnstone’s try forced Matty Blythe into a knock-on and Danny Addy knocked-on before touching down from Harry Siejka’s pass.
Bulls applied heavy pressure, but Wakefield defended strongly and looked more threatening with the ball.
Wildcats were well in command four minutes into the second half when Moore did well out of dummy-half and dropped off a pass to send Anthony Mullally through a huge gap.
Mullally had a spell at Bradford last year and was making his final appearance for Wakefield before joining Leeds Rhinos.
Jordan Tansey’s goal made it 12-0, but Bulls hit back six minutes later when Danny Williams crossed from a brilliant pass by Adrian Purtell.
Addy converted via a post and the crossbar and Bulls scored again almost immediately. Jake Mullaney should have done better from Lee Gaskell’s pass, but the ball was moved right and Blythe touched down after a scramble.
The video refs gave the green light, but there was no goal. That made it a two-point ball game, but Wildcats struck next.
Tansey’s break turned defence into attack and Danny Washbrook, in his final game before returning to Hull, went over from Jacob Miller’s pass.
Tansey converted to make it 18-10, but again Bulls hit back, Purtell powering over and Addy adding the two.
Mullaney kept Bulls in it with nine minutes left when he made an outstanding last-ditch tackle on Chris Annakin, then Moore was held up over the line on the next play.
With four minutes left Wildcats were controversially penalised for not being square, apparently on the video referees’ advice, but Addy’s kick was off target.
From the drop out, Dale Ferguson lost the ball in Godinet’s tackle and Wakefield countered for Moore to scoot over on the final play, Tansey adding the extras after the hooter.