A Josh Dugan-less Dragons manage to edge out the Panthers in Penrith after the Sea Eagles grabbed a golden point win over the Warriors.
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Dragons edge out the Panthers in Penrith
St George Illawarra dropped Josh Dugan for disciplinary reasons and still managed to keep the team's NRL finals hopes alive with a 16-14 victory which snapped Penrith's seven-match winning streak.
Representative star Dugan was a late withdrawal from Sunday's must-win clash at Penrith Stadium after reportedly missing the team bus to the ground.
Without him, the Dragons held onto a slender two-point lead for the final 20 minutes to keep the early season competition leaders in the hunt for the top eight.
They remain ninth, but with a far superior for-and-against to Penrith, North Queensland and Manly who are each two points ahead of them going into the final round.
The Panthers and Sea Eagles meet in round 26, meaning that, unless they draw, the Dragons will simply need to beat Canterbury next Sunday afternoon to figure in the finals.
Meanwhile Penrith's hopes took a hit, with their first loss in eight weeks also seeing full-back Dylan Edwards leave the field with a possible medial cruciate ligament tear.
The Panthers are also without five-eighth Matt Moylan for at least another week with a hamstring injury.
If they lose next week and North Queensland and the Dragons both win, their late-season surge will count for nothing.
The Dragons had appeared shot with 23 minutes remaining.
After the Saints took a 12-8 lead to the break, Penrith threatened to take control of the match with the wind and rain at their back when Josh Mansour stepped his way over the line.
But the match swung on a one-on-one strip from Tariq Sims on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the 57th minute.
Sims belted the makeshift full-back and ripped the ball out of his hands and sprinted 40 metres to score.
It then allowed the Dragons to hold for a nervous final 20 minutes, after Matt Dufty and Paul Vaughan had earlier bagged tries in a see-sawing first half.
Manly seal the deal in golden point win over Warriors
Manly has pulled off a dramatic NRL victory, skipper Daly Cherry-Evans landing a field goal in the fifth minute of golden point to beat the Warriors 22-21 in Auckland.
The Sea Eagles had been seven points down with seven minutes of normal time to go on before beginning a late fightback.
Full-back Tom Trbojevic producing a chip-and-chase try from nothing, Matt Wright kicked the conversion and then Cherry-Evans landed a field goal to tie up the score with two minutes on the clock.
Warriors star Shaun Johnson and Cherry-Evans each had another go at a one-pointer in the final minute of normal time, but both went wide, before Cherry-Evans nailed the extra-time winner, kicking into the wind with his left foot after stepping off his right.
The result halted a Manly slump and maintained their play-off hopes, but for the Warriors, already out of finals reckoning, it was an eighth loss in a row.
Manly dominated the early stages in front of 9,167 fans and they were aided by a couple superb 40-20s from five-eighth Blake Green.
The second ended just outside the corner flag and led to lock Jake Trbojevic opening the scoring in the 13 minute.
Wright added the extras and then a penalty, before the Warriors struck back.
The home side had been guilty of some sloppy touches but then benefited from a Manly turnover deep in their own half to send winger David Fusitu'a over in the corner.
Eight minutes from half-time, Fusitu'a got his second chasing a Johnson kick into the in-goal.
While Warriors hooker Issac Luke had produced the break that led to that second try, he was not able to land the handy conversion to break the 8-8 deadlock.
After Wright added a penalty early in the second spell, Tom Trbojevic produced a piece of magic to help push Manly further ahead.
Given the ball on the halfway, he broke clear, dodged a tackle and produced a cross-kick that centre Dylan Walker latched on to score.
Three minutes later, Fusitu'a came up with some skill of his own, snaring a Johnson attacking bomb and sending centre Blake Ayshford over, with Luke's conversion levelling the score again with half an hour to go.
The home side did not lead until 10 minutes from the end when winger Ken Maumalo finished off an expansive move in the corner.
Johnson landed the sideline conversion and then a field goal, before Manly's late charge.