Cronulla have cemented their place in the NRL top eight after shaking off their off-field woes to record a 18-16 win over Canterbury on Sunday.
The 19,005-strong crowd at Belmore Sports Ground made their feelings known when the Sharks were awarded a contentious penalty goal in front with six minutes on the clock after Valentine Holmes was hit late as he took a shot at field goal by Josh Reynolds.
Holmes converted the penalty which pushed the scores out to 18-10.
Canterbury skipper James Graham threw his hands in the air in frustration after they lost in remarkably similar circumstances to South Sydney in the now infamous Good Friday clash earlier in the year.
Ultimately, for the second time in as many weeks, young gun Holmes proved the match-winner, scoring what was the decisive try in the 60th minute before sealing it with his penalty conversion.
The Bulldogs scored late via Michael Lichaa but in the wash-up paid for their poor handling, completing just 17 of 36 sets, giving away 13 penalties and committing 15 handling errors.
For the Sharks, it was an important win as they jumped four points clear of ninth-placed St George Illawarra, they also bounced back after star forward Andrew Fifita was accused of abusing a junior referee on the weekend.
The Bulldogs received an early scare when Reynolds went up the tunnel with a shoulder injury, however he was back on the field 10 minutes later.
During Reynolds’ absence, Wade Graham – who put the hit on the Bulldogs No.6 that left him clutching at his arm – punched through a hole and found Michael Gordon backing up on the inside to score first.
Fifita endured a rocky build up and started like his mind was elsewhere.
In the first 20 minutes, he came with a handling error and gave away three penalties, the last of which led directly to a Josh Morris try which evened up the scores.
The sides went into the sheds locked at 6-all and the Sharks broke the deadlock 11 minutes after the resumption of play when workaholic captain Paul Gallen ran a lovely line off a Michael Ennis pass.
Ennis then put in an inch-perfect kick for speedster Valentine Holmes, fresh off his match-winning effort against Canberra last week, who got around Curtis Rona to plant the ball.
The Bulldogs responded via Frank Pritchard, finally converting field position into a four-pointer, to open the game up.
The Bulldogs looked like they had evened it up with eight minutes to go when Brett Morris crossed, but it was ruled a no try because of a Pritchard obstruction.
Holmes’ penalty gave the Sharks an eight-point buffer before Lichaa reduced it to just two.
The Sharks received a late injury blow when Luke Lewis limped off with a knee problem.