The Titans were just inches away from stealing a last-second win over North Queensland, with centre Brian Kelly falling agonisingly short of the tryline to condemn the Gold Coast to a heartbreaking 6-4 loss to the Cowboys at Cbus Super Stadium.
Kelly was on the end of a desperate last-minute play from the home team, and looked like he had done enough to get across in the left corner after some amazing acrobatics from Tyrone Peachey infield to keep the play alive.
But he was bundled into touch by a posse of Cowboy defenders, giving North Queensland their second derby win over the Gold Coast this season.
It was a disappointing loss for the Titans, not least of all because it came on the back of an impressive win last start against Manly in Sydney.
The Titans had three chances to win or tie the game in the dying stages against the Cowboys, but crucially, the video referee ruled what looked like a fair try to Kevin Proctor had been knocked-on in the contest for the ball in the 74th minute.
Twice the Titans missed shots at penalty goal that would have levelled the scores and at the very least sent the game to golden-point, but both times the kick – one from Ash Taylor and one from Tyrone Roberts – sailed wide.
The dramatic loss continues North Queensland’s hoodoo over the Gold Coast, which now stretches to nine successive wins over the Titans, going back to 2014.
The Titans led 4-0 at halftime after a gripping first 40 minutes that had a bit of everything for everyone – including a bit of push-and-shove just before the break that resulted in warning for Titans big man Shannon Boyd.
The opening 20 minutes were a genuine arm-wrestle as both packs ripped into each other trying to gain the upper hand, and against a star-studded Cowboys pack, the Titans forwards were clearly up for the challenge.
While props Jarrod Wallace and Moeaki Fotuaika were churning through their usual metres, backrower Kevin Proctor was turning back the clock with a vintage display, making good yards with every touch as Ash Taylor created half-chances by taking the line on.
It was Proctor who was the chief architect of the only try of the half, squeezing out an off-load after a heavy collision on the right side as the Titans pressed inside the Cowboys’ 10m zone.
The ball was swung to the left where the Titans had numbers waiting, with Wallace in particular doing well by reversing into traffic and delivering a neat off-load to Tyrone Roberts who cut out two teammates to give Dale Copley an uninterrupted run to the tryline.
It was not as if Copley had to stop and ask directions – the try in the 22nd minute meant the Titans winger has now scored seven tried in his past four games – including his career-first hat-trick last weekend against Manly.
The Titans had chances to add to their tally, but a brilliant 60m run from AJ Brimson in the 30th minute and an Anthony Don leap into the in-goal from a Taylor chip-kick came to nothing because of desperate North Queensland defence.
While the Titans would have liked to have scored more points, the manner in which they kept the Cowboys at bay for the first 40 minutes would have been pleasing for Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan.
The Cowboys asked a lot of questions, but the Titans were always good enough to come up with the right answer, showing up with numbers to foil North Queensland’s attack just at the right moment.
But immediately after halftime, some old bad habits started creeping back into the Gold Coast’s game, with poor discipline allowing the Cowboys to set up camp in the Titans’ 20-metre zone.
It wasn’t long until the possession and position paid dividends for the visitors, with Jason Taumalolo awarded a try by the video referee in the 50th minute.
Four Titans, led by Brimson, did their best to burrow underneath the Cowboys hulk, and seemed to have won the battle in keeping the ball off the turf.
But on-field referee Henry Perenara and the video referee both agreed that a second effort from Taumalolo had been enough to warrant a try and give the visitors a 6-4 lead.
Wallace and Proctor were enormous for the Titans, but there were quality contributions right across the park, which makes the lack of premiership points all the more disappointing.
COWBOYS 6 (Jason Taumalolo tries; Jordan Kahu goals) d TITANS 4 (Dale Copley try) at Cbus Super Stadium. Crowd: 11,226