Cronulla have registered four wins in a row for the first time since 2018 and climbed into the NRL top eight after holding on to beat fast-finishing North Queensland 26-24.
The Sharks led 26-12 with eight minutes remaining in Friday night's match in Townsville before the Cowboys staged a trademark fightback aided by two tries to Queensland Origin winger Kyle Feldt.
The Cowboys were denied only after fullback Valentine Holmes fell short with a long-range field goal attempt in the final minute that would have levelled the scores - from similar distance to the one he beat the Warriors with three weeks ago.
Cronulla coach Josh Hannay said that eight-minute spell was the only negative of his side's performance and he was heartened by their reaction to it.
"A few of the players have actually said, and this is a good sign - it feels like a bit of a loss," Hannay said.
"It's a little bit disappointing that we didn't really put the Cowboys away tonight."
Having taken over as interim coach when John Morris was axed during the Sharks' poor season start, that included six straight losses, Hannay felt the work of halves Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan was one of the keys to their recent winning streak.
"Stability in general in our team has been really important for us over this last month," Hannay said.
"We've gotten our best players on the field and it's no coincidence we're playing our best footy as a result.
"Matt (Moylan) and Shaun (Johnson) in the halves have been a real catalyst for our footy.
"They are instinctive players but they've actually done a really good job of playing a bit within themselves and just controlling the game."
Unwanted by his club for next season, Johnson continued to boost his long-term employment prospects, guiding the Sharks' attack astutely and also finishing a perfect 5/5 off the boot.
"The squad is still hungry to head in the right direction, in a positive direction and that's all we'll look to do," said Johnson.
"We're not complete, we haven't put together a full 80-minute performance so how we keep that momentum is we strive for it, we stay hungry with it."
Siosifa Talakai and Aaron Woods were the backbone of a Cronulla pack which created easy metres up the middle and a fine platform for Moylan and Johnson, while the Sharks' defensive pressure forced the Cowboys into basic errors.
Cronulla raced out to a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes as Johnson grubbered for Connor Tracey to score and Woods crashed over from close range.
The Cowboys were quick to hit back through Tom Dearden, who scored a try in his home debut, before finding Francis Molo to crash over for a try.
The Sharks bagged a crucial try before halftime when William Kennedy turned the defence inside-out before gifting Ronaldo Mulitalo an easy put down.
The visitors' sole second-half try by centre Will Chambers created a big enough margin to eke out the win.
Australian Associated Press