The Canterbury Bulldogs welcomed Manly to ANZ Stadium with the Sea Eagles knowing a loss would see their finals dream over.
Following good work from Jayden Okunbor on his return to pick up a 20-metre restart, the Bulldogs charged up field and opened the scores.
Jake Averillo, playing at five-eighth, took the ball to the line and push the ball to Matt Doorey to crash over and pick up the first points.
After a penalty direct from kick off, followed by an offside by Brad Parker, Nick Meaney opted to take a shot at goal and pushed the home side into an eight-point lead.
Just after the 25th minute, Martin Taupau was penalised for a dangerous tackle, which gave Meaney another opportunity at the posts.
He converted to make it 10-0.
That lead was soon cut back to within a score though.
Daly Cherry-Evans ran across field before darting back on the inside and put Taniela Paseka through a big gap to touch down under the posts.
With just three minutes to go until the break, the Sea Eagles hit back again.
Once again, it was Cherry-Evans who played a vital part.
He collected the offload from Albert Hopoate, and made a line break before kicking in behind for himself.
Will Hopoate took the half-back out off the ball but Curtis Sironen got to the ball first and grounded it to level the scores.
In the final seconds of the half, Manly took a surprising lead.
A powerful run from Sironen dragged the Bulldogs defenders in field and quick hands from Danny Levi and Cade Cust put Brad Parker through the open space to slide over and score.
HALF-TIME: Canterbury Bulldogs 10-16 Manly Sea Eagles
Just four minutes into the second half, Manly extended their lead after a serious spell of pressure on the Canterbury line.
Cherry-Evans popped the ball onto Jack Gosiewski, and the forward powered over to push the lead to 10.
The Manly captain converted again to make it 10-22.
Just after the 50 minute mark, following multiple set restarts, a cross field kick from Jake Averillo found his half-back partner Lachlan Lewis, who out jumped Cherry-Evans to pull back another score.
The try-scoring continued but once again, it came from the Sea Eagles.
Morgan Harper picked the ball up on the 40-metre line, and showed fancy footwork to get past three Bulldogs defenders, and outpaced Nick Meaney to score.
After a 20 minute spell of open, expansive play from both sides, it was only a matter of time before another try was scored.
Taupau dropped the ball onto his foot towards to uprights but Lewis failed to deal with the ball, and the second-rower picked up the loose ball to score by the posts.
Cherry-Evans converted again to make it 16-32.
It looked as though Okunbor had pulled a score back for the Bulldogs as he jumped higher than Abbas Miski, landed and grounded the ball.
FULL-TIME: Canterbury Bulldogs 20-32 Manly Sea Eagles
Hopoate, Meaney, R. Smith, Watene-Zelezniak, Okunbor, Averillo, Lewis, Tolman, Marshall-King, To’omaga, Faitala-Mariner, Doorey, Jackson
Interchanges: Wakeham, Sue, Britt, C. Smith
Tries: Doorey, Lewis, Okunbor
Goals: Meaney (4/5)
Manly Sea Eagles
Funa, Hopoate, Parker, Harper, Miski, Cust, Cherry-Evans, Fonua-Blake, Levi, Taupau, Gosiewski, Sironen, Trbojevic
Interchanges: Croker, Waddell, Keppie, Paseka
Tries: Paseka, Sironen, Parker, Gosiewski, Harper, Taupau
Goals: Cherry-Evans (4/6)
Referee: M. Noyen
Touch Judges: B. Sharpe, P. Gough
Video Referee: B. Lowe
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)