THE Illawarra Cutters can assume the NSW Cup competition lead next week after setting up a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash with Wentworthville on Saturday.
Having just missed the finals in each of their first two years in the competition, the NSW Cup's newest side can vault to new heights if they're successful at Pirtek Stadium.
And it was only possible after Ian Millward's outfit clawed their way back from an early 12-point deficit to subdue the second-from-bottom Bulldogs 34-24 at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
"Even though they've only been going a short period I don't think they've ever been in that position before," Millward said. "It will give us a great chance [to reach new levels].
"The character and the way they've played the last few weeks has been fantastic. We're still at that stage where we've conceded the least amount of points in the league."
Despite losing and drawing their opening two matches of the season, the Cutters have peeled off six wins from their last seven matches. And their only loss in that time came after giving the New Zealand Warriors a tremendous fright when trailing by as many as 30 points close to half-time.
They again were slow out of the blocks against a Bulldogs side containing familiar faces in one of the Cutters' best last year, Damien Cook.
But tries to the impressive Shane Pumipi and five-eighth Kyle Eather hauled the hosts level at the break before they added three quick four-pointers in the second stanza to peel off 28 unanswered points.
"In the last two games we had only conceded four points and to go into half-time at 12-12 I thought it was a victory for us," Millward said.
"In the second half we had a lot of ball and with that we turned it into points."
The Bulldogs threatened to cause a boilover after getting within four points with just eight minutes remaining, but Yaw Kiti Glymin's 90-metre runaway try in the shadows of full-time sealed the result.
The unheralded Pumipi and former NSW Country prop Rory O'Brien were two of the Cutters' best, adding to the selection headaches Millward has got.