Winger Edrick Lee went from villain to hero in the space of five minutes to seal a last-gasp 18-15 win over the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Warriors were on the cusp of victory after Shaun Johnson split the uprights with a clutch 25-metre field goal to put his team up 15-14 with five minutes remaining.
But the Sharks got a break from an offside call at their own end of the field and made the most of it, claiming a crucial win.
Lee would've felt terrible after his knock-on near his own line allowed the Warriors to set up a shot for Johnson.
But the lanky winger redeemed himself with a try in the corner in the final stages, breaking the hearts of the Warriors and their fans.
Match: Warriors v Sharks
Round 16 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Cronulla's win was their ninth over New Zealand in their past 11 meetings.
The win was seventh-placed Cronulla's 10th in 16 games and kept them in the hunt for an all-important top four finish with nine rounds remaining.
The Warriors couldn't have asked for a better start in the round 16 clash between the fourth and seventh-placed teams on the NRL ladder, stunning the Sharks with two converted tries before they even knew what hit them.
But they went into cruise control for the rest of the half, allowing the Sharks to fight back and lock it up 12-12 at the break.
Neither team could break the 12-12 deadlock until Sharks halfback Chad Townsend kicked a 56th-minute penalty goal.
But the Sharks were caught offside 20 metres out from their try-line and Johnson confidently knocked over a game-tying penalty goal 12 minutes from full-time.
Needing a positive start in enemy territory, the Sharks got exactly the opposite, failing to find touch from a penalty kick and giving up a try moments later to Solomone Kata. Johnson nailed the sideline conversion perfectly for a 6-0 lead after five minutes.
The visitors were off the pace from the get-go and played the first 12 minutes almost entirely in their own half, as the Warriors took advantage with a try to Anthony Gelling. Johnson made no mistake with the conversion for a 12-0 lead.
The Sharks finally got out of second gear, gradually working their way into the contest before opening their account with centre Jesse Ramien's try in the corner. Townsend missed the sideline kick and the score remained 12-4 after 15 minutes.
That seemed to energise the Sharks and they enjoyed a territorial edge for the rest of the first half.
A second try came far too easily for Lee, as the Warriors found themselves outnumbered defensively on the left side. Townsend converted to cut the deficit to 12-10 after 25 minutes.
New Zealand suffered a blow when prop Bunty Afoa left the field with what looked like an elbow injury in the latter part of the first.
Townsend kicked a penalty goal to tie it up at 12-12 just before half-time and that's how it stayed at the break.
Johnson's field goal looked like it might be enough but the Sharks had the last say of the match, stealing victory at the death.