The Newcastle Knights survived a stirring comeback to hang on for a tense 22-12 win over the Bulldogs in the Holden Cup at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights couldn't have asked for a better start with skipper Tom Starling diving over from dummy-half in the third minute before centre Heath Gibbs sliced through soon after to give the hosts a 12-0 lead before the Bulldogs had completed a set.
The blue and whites should have cut into the early deficit when they marched downfield via a penalty but were denied when winger Alvin Maungaati lost the ball over the line.
Canterbury continued to work their way back into the contest and were dominating field position for most of the first half only for Starling and Gibbs to combine two minutes out from the break to give Newcastle a handy 18-point buffer at half-time.
The second half started slowly but burst into life when Maungaati broke into the backfield, drew in the fullback and then grubbered ahead for Jayden Okunbor who soccered it off the ground and won the race to the loose ball to get his side on the board with a special four-pointer.
The change of ends appeared to work wonders for the Bulldogs who were in again from the very next set when five-eighth Adam Keighran dummied his way to the line to make it a 10-point game.
A seven-tackle set then presented the Bulldogs with another opportunity to apply pressure and the visitors accepted the invitation with Kiko Manu diving over spectacularly in the right corner, only for Keighran to push the conversion attempt wide to leave his side trailing by six.
It looked like a matter of when, not if the Bulldogs would draw level, but instead the Knights mounted an attacking raid against the run of play and were rewarded with a try to winger Mitch Andrews to kill off the contest in the 75th minute.
Knights 22 (Heath Gibbs 2, Tom Starling, Mitch Andrews tries; Jack Johns 3 goals) def. Bulldogs 12 (Jayden Okunbor, Adam Keighran, Kiko Manu tries) in the Holden Cup at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half-time: 18-0