St George Illawarra have gone close to pulling off an improbable comeback win over arch-rivals Cronulla, going down 28-24 in an enthralling affair in Kogarah.
The Dragons were down by four with two minutes to go on Saturday night when Matt Dufty failed to cleanly ground a Ben Hunt grubber with no one in sight.
Jason Saab then had a chance to steal the game with the final play when he soared to take a Corey Norman kick, but grounded the ball on the dead-ball line.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor will also be left to rue a dubious try to Cronulla’s Jack Williams early in the contest.
The frantic last few minutes provided a thrilling finish to an entertaining contest at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the sides combining for nine tries in the wet conditions.
Dragons centre Zac Lomax was involved in two contenders for the try of the year, but it was not enough to prevent the hot form of Sharks star Shaun Johnson.
The NRL leader in try assists added two more, taking his tally to 16, while he was involved in a third and scored a fourth himself in another stellar display.
He was supported by prop Royce Hunt, who made 196 metres off the bench.
The win may have come at a cost, though, with halfback Chad Townsend failing to finish the match after suffering a suspected calf injury.
St George Illawarra second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono and Cronulla lock Williams traded tries in a high-octane opening 10 minutes.
But after edging ahead with a penalty goal, the Dragons took control with a try for the highlight reels.
A break by Dufty resulted in a push down the left flank before switching to the right, where Hunt kicked for Lomax, who grubbered for himself to score.
However the Sharks seized momentum off the back of four straight six-again calls that resulted in three successive tries, all involving Johnson.
The New Zealand international had a hand in the right-side shift that ended in Sione Katoa going over, before he waltzed through himself after a Fuimaono shift.
Johnson then gave his team an eight-point halftime lead when he grubbered for fullback Will Kennedy in the 34th minute.
A blowout loomed when Aaron Woods crashed over soon after resumption, however Dufty kept his team in the game with a flick pass for Lomax’s second.
The comeback was on after Lomax’s next contribution, a no-look flick pass that ricocheted off a Sharks player and into the hands of Mikaele Ravalawa to score.