Warilla fullback Nick Lazerevski nailed a couple of crunch time kicks to help his side escape with a nail-biting 13-12 win victory over Kiama on Sunday at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
The Gorillas led 10-6 for most of the second half and had ample chances to stretch the margin when they were camped on the Knights' line.
Kiama refused to budge, repelling their opponents' raids before taking a 12-10 lead when veteran lock Marc Laird put prop Jacob Morrison over next to the posts with eight minutes remaining.
But the Gorillas never doubted themselves.
They were attacking deep in Kiama's territory when the Knights conceded a costly penalty.
Lazerevski made no mistake with the game-tying goal and broke Kiama hearts a minute later with a wobbly field goal.
Warilla remain unbeaten at the top of the table.
Missing from the Gorillas were representative players Andrew Diomei and Damien Paulissen.
"It was a tough game," Warilla coach Peter Hooper said.
"I was just pleased to get that win with a few blokes missing and other blokes who've played four games in eight days. That's something special, especially the standard of footy they've had to play.
"The blokes in that group are mentally tough. Fatigue probably got us today and we lacked a bit of direction with Andrew and Damien not being there. In saying that, the blokes that came in did a great job so I really haven't got any complaints. It was a tough hit-out and I'm happy to get the two points."
The Gorillas enjoyed a dream start, scoring through back-rower Joel Skeates in the opening 60 seconds. Kiama regrouped and took a 6-4 lead in the 20th minute when Corey Grigg converted Dean Gentle's try. The score didn't change until the second half when Lazerevski crossed and converted for a 10-6 lead.
Kiama kept fighting and were eventually rewarded with Morrison's try, but the Gorillas responded one more time and found a way to win.
"We defended really well in that second half but we gave them too many opportunities. That's footy I suppose," Laird said.
"That one really hurts. We tried our guts out. I thought we did enough towards the end. Our defence was really good on our line and we held out for four or five sets.
"A couple of refereeing decisions go against you, but what do you do? We'll just come back next week and go again. We're not here to make up the numbers this year.
"We've been in the semis the last couple of years and it's time we stood up."
Nowra-Bomaderry reached fourth spot with a 58-14 rout of Jamberoo, while Shellharbour beat Gerringong 30-22.