Two second-half Jack Wighton stunners have set the Raiders up for a grand final rematch with the Roosters where they can steal an all-important top four spot, but only after the mother of all scares from cellar dwellers Canterbury.
Having all but slept and slipped through the first 40 minutes to trail 20-12 at half-time, the Raiders lost Tom Starling to the sin bin and Curtis Scott to an ankle injury immediately after the break.
Down to 12 and with the Dogs barking, Wighton proved himself the best running five-eighth in the game twice over, single-handedly sparking an eventual 34-20 victory.
With scything runs from close range in the 48th and 54th minutes, Wighton put the Bulldogs to bed before their defence went the same way.
Canberra's sixth win from their last seven outings now draws them level with grand final foes, the Roosters, on 24 competition points.
Match: Raiders v Bulldogs
Round 16 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
The premiers will be in town next week, with their own star No.6 Luke Keary and Sonny Bill Williams expected to be in tow for a clash that could well dictate who gets that critical second chance come finals time.
Scott will be assessed on Monday but early talk out of GIO Stadium after fulltime was positive around his availability against the Roosters.
For the first 40 minutes against Canterbury though, Canberra looked anything but the finals-bound side they are.
The Bulldogs out-enthused them on their own turf and found fortune with both the high ball and left-side raids that once again put Scott's defensive reads in the spotlight.
But Ricky Stuart dismissed any suggestion of complacency on the Raiders part, crediting Canterbury for putting his side in the cross hairs.
"I get embarrassed by getting asked that question, not just by [the media], but mates and blokes in the street that say 'you should win this week, I hope you aren't complacent'," he said.
"I promise you if I had a guy or group of guys that were complacent in a game of football I would not play them. Because it's a disease, it just spreads.
"There was no complacency tonight, [the Bulldogs] played good football.
"You walk into the sheds and there was a lot of composure in the body language and the eyes of the boys. That really impresses me because there's a sign of maturity there.
"My senior players are doing their job. If they were frustrated and started to think 'I've got to go out there and win it on my own', we get beaten tonight."
Wighton continues to fire as he gets Canberra back into lead
Tries were traded from the outset.
After two weeks watching from the sidelines, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was back in first grade and on the scoreboard within 10 minutes thanks to a pinpoint looping pass by Lachlan Lewis.
Ricky Stuart started Josh Papalii on the pine again, but Joe Tapine pulled a fair impersonation of his blockbusting teammate to level up proceedings, stepping and sideswiping his way through four defenders as he scored under the posts.
Will Hopoate's night in the nation's capital started with him burning Canterbury's captain's challenge after just three minutes, the fastest unsuccessful referral of the year.
Bulldogs put entry in for try of the season
His stone cold spill of a Wighton bomb soon after gave Starling four points on a platter, but similarly elementary errors from Canberra kept the Bulldogs more than in it for throughout the first 40.
So much so that a Starling forward pass out of dummy-half led to Raymond Faitala-Mariner crashing over for 12-10, Meaney's conversion attempt off the upright the only reason Canterbury still trailed.
The next time the Dogs came calling they ended up leading. Kerrod Holland's bat back straight down to Josh Jackson made for a 14-12 half-time lead.
That is until Holland had another crack as the halftime siren sounded. With three kicks in the one play, two from the off-contract centre, Holland had a try to back up the one he created three minutes earlier to have the Raiders on the ropes.
Wighton does it all himself
Starling's sin-binning for a fourth straight Raiders infringement loomed ominously, until Wighton stepped in and stepped his way through some feeble Canterbury defence.
With Papalii (222 metres) and Tapine (164 metres) smashing the Bulldogs through the middle, Hudson Young and Starling again cleaned up with late tries for Canberra to walk away with another two competition points.
Canterbury meanwhile make their way back up the Hume Highway with yet another loss, and just four weeks left to try and drag themselves off the bottom of the ladder.