Canberra have shown their class to sneak home with a 14-12 win over North Queensland in an NRL arm wrestle in Townsville, with their coach Ricky Stuart saying they didn't deserve to win.
It was far from the Raiders' best but they did enough to edge a willing Cowboys outfit on Saturday night, with both teams scoring two tries.
North Queensland threw everything at their opponents but too often let themselves down with their kicking options.
"From our point of view it was very scrappy, I thought we were very loose in a lot of our footy and we were very lucky to win," Stuart said.
"I don't think we deserved to win but we found a way to win at the end and that was the important thing."
Gunning for their third successive victory, Canberra looked as if they were suffering jet lag early on after their long match-day flight north.
They were caught out just two minutes into the match when North Queensland hooker Reece Robson dashed over the line from dummy half.
The Raiders found their groove to level in the 18th minute when halfback George Williams started and finished a 70m try, helped by a big charge and fend by winger Nick Cotric.
A 35th-minute penalty strike by their captain Jarrod Croker allowed his team to take an 8-6 lead to the sheds.
Canberra prop Josh Papalii was both hero and villain within two minutes, stripping the ball but then being place on report for a forearm to the head of teenage fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo steamed to the tryline to put his side but it was short-lived with the Raiders hitting back four minutes later.
England international John Bateman, playing his first match of the year after two rounds of shoulder surgery, found Curtis Scott who fended off winger Murray Taulagi to score.
Bateman and stand-in fullback Jordan Rapana were among their best.
Sharpshooter Croker then showed his value, nailing the conversion from the sideline to put his side ahead again.
The final 12 minutes saw four captains' challenges, with the Cowboys correct with both but they couldn't find the points for a win or to take the match into golden point.
Their interim coach John Hannay said he had split emotions after the loss, but praised their steely defence.
He admitted he had erred, sending John Asiata back on to land a "killer blow" with 10 minutes to go but the reserve forward was immediately injured, leaving the team with 12 players for a few minutes while he was treated.
"I'm pretty torn tonight as a coach," Hannay said.
"We saw signs of a team that I want to see out there but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.
"One part of me is immensely proud and the other part is immensely frustrated and angry.
"There was some big moments where some younger players didn't do their job."