With just one win each, both the Cronulla Sharks and Canterbury Bulldogs needed a win to move away from the bottom of the ladder, and one of them would as they clashed as Bankwest Stadium.
The opening stages were dominated by the Sharks, and after five minutes, Wade Graham twisted and turned through four Bulldogs tacklers, but was held up over the line.
After keeping the Bulldogs inside their own half, it wasn’t going to take long for Cronulla to finally score.
In the 12th minute, a looping pass from Chad Townsend found Sione Katoa, who still had plenty of work to do, but dived over the desperate tackle of Liam Foran to ground the ball in the corner.
The Sharks should have picked up a second in the 25th minute, as Chad Townsend made a break down the right-hand side, and with two teammates inside him, passed the ball.
However, the ball missed all Sharks players, and into the hands at a Bulldog.
The Bulldogs then pushed their way upfield, looking to level the scores before the break.
After slow build-up play, Brandon Wakeham held the ball in front of the line, and his short pass to Will Hopoate was enough for the full-back to crash over after stepping inside Wade Graham.
Jake Averillo converted to level the scores.
The game turned into an equal affair, with plenty of the game taking play in midfield.
With five minutes of the half left, Briton Nikora was penalised for slowing the ruck down and was sent to the sin-bin for a number of built-up penalties against the Sharks.
HALF-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 6-6 Canterbury Bulldogs
The Sharks managed to hold on with just 12-men, and after Briton Nikora returned to the field, they took the lead once more.
Shaun Johnson took the ball to the line, and with Nikora running a hard line, Johnson threw a bullet pass wide, past Nikore, with Katoa catching the ball down by his ankles and ran over in the corner.
With 30 minutes to go, Brandon Wakeham was penalised for a reckless tackle on Josh Dugan, on the floor. Wakeham was also sent to the sin-bin, not for the tackle but because the last three penalties against the Bulldogs were at the ruck.
With the man advantage, Katoa grabbed his first career treble, thanks to Shaun Johnson’s dribbled kick in behind the line bounced perfectly for the winger to score.
The Bulldogs responded almost instantly though, as Adam Elliot put a dubious kick towards the posts, which was well-read by Kieran Foran, who gathered the ball and dotted down under no pressure.
With 15 minutes to go and both sides back to 13, the Bulldogs were winning the territory battle, with strong tackles in defence pinning Cronulla inside their own half.
However, after the Bulldogs conceded a set restart, the Sharks showed them just how to finish their chances, as Chad Townsend chipped into the left-hand corner, and Bryson Goodwin, on his return to the NRL, caught the ball on the full and rolled over the try-line to make it 20-12.
The back and forth continued between the two sides, as Shaun Johnsons kick ricocheted off Foran, and off a number of players before Jake Averillo picked up the ball and raced away 60 metres to score under the posts.
However, Raymond Faitala-Mariner was offside from the ricochet of Foran, so the try was scrubbed off and Cronulla still led by eight.
With five minutes to go, a grandstand finish was on, as Johnsons flat pass out to Katoa was picked off by Christian Crichton who ran 95 metres to score.
Averillo converted from the sideline to make it a two-point deficit for the Bulldogs with just under four minutes on the clock.
With a minute on the clock, the Bulldogs tried to keep the ball alive, but Josh Dugan wrapped up Josh Jackson, with Graham picking up the loose offload, and the Sharks carried the ball up for five tackles to end the game in a much-needed win for the home side.
FULL-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 20-18 Canterbury Bulldogs
Moylan, Katoa, Dugan, Ramien, Goodwin, Johnson, Townsend, Woods, Brailey, Hamlin-Uele, Nikora, Grahams, Williams
Interchanges: Fifita, Rudolf, Talakai, Hunt
Tries: Katoa (3), Goodwin
Goals: Johnson (2/4)
Hopoate, Crichton, Smith, Watene-Zelezniak, Averillo, Foran, Wakeham, To’omaga, Marshall-King, Napa, Jackson, Faitala-Mariner, Elliott
Interchanges: Holland, Britt, Sue, Ogden
Tries: Hopoate, Foran, Crichton
Goals: Averillo (3/3)
Referee: A. Gee
Touch Judges: C. Butler, D. Oultram
Video Referee: B. Scott
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)