Cronulla have snapped a five game losing streak with a 16-14 NRL win over an injury-hit North Queensland.
John Morris' side provisionally moved level with eighth-placed Newcastle after under-pressure playmaker Shaun Johnson led the Sharks to a much-needed win at PointsBet Stadium on Thursday.
Even without suspended front-rower Andrew Fifita and injured pair Matt Moylan and Wade Graham, the Sharks gutsed out a second-half fightback to remain in the hunt for the finals.
Veteran Paul Gallen had his best game of the season, running for 224 metres in a 61-minute effort.
The Sharks have led just three times at halftime this season and once again found themselves down at the break after a Matt Scott try just before the siren gave the Cowboys an 8-4 edge.
And when Francis Molo pounced on a Jake Granville grubber five minutes after the resumption, the 6144-strong crowd feared a familiar story.
But the Cowboys - who have now lost five of their last six - eventually ran out of gas.
Coach Paul Green was already missing almost an entire backline with Michael Morgan, Jordan Kahu, Te Maire Martin, Justin O'Neill, Ben Hampton and Gideon Gela-Mosby on the sideline.
Their backline crisis was compounded five minutes before halftime when winger Kyle Feldt was taken from the field and did not return.
With back-rower Coen Hess already playing in the centres, it forced them into another backline reshuffle which saw forward Shane Wright move to centre to mark up on speedster Bronson Xerri.
The visitors were brave with Scott Drinkwater and Tom Opacic coming up with try-savers on Ronaldo Mulitalo and the Sharks were guilty of blowing another golden opportunity when Johnson threw it forward to Sosaia Feki.
But with Cronulla enjoying 59 per cent of possession in the second half, the weight of possession eventually told.
The Cowboys were cracked with a one-two punch as Josh Dugan and Xerri scored tries just four minutes apart to give them the lead for the first time with 10 minutes remaining.
It was an advantage the never surrendered.
Johnson finished with two try assists, three linebreak assists and one linebreak after being heavily criticised in recent weeks.
Importantly for Morris, his troop of young forwards including Braden Hamlin-Uele, Briton Nikora, Jack Williams and debutant Billy Magoulias were all outstanding.