North Queensland have pulled off an amazing comeback to escape with the two competition points after coming from behind to beat Canberra 32-24 in Townsville.
In an action-packed game, Antonio Winterstein grabbed a double, Jake Granville was the recipient of a brilliant Johnathan Thurston pass and Gavin Cooper crossed in a second half demolition job for the Cowboys.
But that was only after Canberra set up an 18-0 halftime lead with tries to Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee and Sia Soliola.
Chasing its first finals appearance since 2012, the Raiders could not have started better.
But as clubs like Melbourne and Parramatta have learned the hard way this year, no lead is too big to shut out the Cowboys.
Cowboys coach Paul Green joked that he should swap his halftime speeches with his pre-game talks.
“We just didn’t really get into our game in the first half,” he said.
“The completion rate didn’t help … 50 per cent is not good enough in any competition.
“The second half, we were on top early and stayed there the whole match which is a good sign.
“(The completion rate) needs to improve. We played well for 20 minutes last week, 40 minutes this week, hopefully it will be 60 next week and then 80.”
Cowboys fans had their hearts in the throats on several occasions with Thurston going down with a knee knock, a leg twist and a heavy shot to the ribs in the match.
“He’s a bit sore, but he’ll be all right,” Green said.
The news isn’t likely to get better for the Raiders, with playmaker Blake Austin on report for a lifting tackle on Cooper and Lee also on the charge list for a blatant trip on Justin O’Neill.
Austin was also penalised for a trip on Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo late in the match.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said weight of possession cost his side in the second half.
“At the 30 minute mark (of the second half) they had 75 per cent of the footy,” he said.
“It wouldn’t matter what footy team you’re playing on the night, if for 30 minutes of the game they’ve got 75 per cent of the footy you’re going to on the back pedal and doing it real tough.”