A MUST-WIN game in round two? It seems unfathomable, but the Dragons clash with Penrith at Kogarah on Friday night had that feel to it.
Paul McGregor's men looked to have done it to, only for two tries in as many minutes from the Panthers to reel in a 10-point deficit and see the Dragons get off to a disastrous 0-2 start to the season despite a game effort.
A double to the recalled Matt Dufty, the first well and truly against the run of play, twice gave the hosts momentum but an all-to-familiar trend of late-game wobbles saw the hosts fade out of the contest.
With the mercury nudging 36 degrees not long before kickoff, a drinks break at 20 minutes was implemented and that's all that could seemingly stop the Panthers in the opening quarter.
Api Koroisau and Nathan Cleary crossed from close range in the space of five minutes for a 12-0 lead after 15 minutes, with a touch-up seemingly on the cards for the visitors. You could even credit Isiah Yeo with a try assist on the Dragons first four-pointer, with Dufty intercepting what looked a certain try to Dean Whare and turning into a 90-metre hit-back.
It got the hosts back into it at 12-4 before Brayden Wiliame and Zac Lomax crossed in the ensuing 13 minutes to remarkably lead 16-12 at halftime and leave Ivan Cleary cursing the heat.
Dufty grabbed his second try at the same stage of the second half to again turn momentum, with Corey Norman scoring what looked to be the match-winner courtesy of a Ben Hunt banana kick four minutes later.
It didn't prove the case, with Viliame Kickau and Stephen Crichton crossing on consecutive sets to take back the lead, with the Dragons unable to snatch it back in the final minute despite having a full set on the Panthers line.
That Dufty was only in the game due to an injury to Mikaele Ravalawa only added to the intrigue but McGregor was again left ruing one that got away.
"We had complete control with 16 minutes to go, we were up by 10, then we gave away a poor penalty on their try-line and they scored off the next set,' McGregor said.
"They scored in the next set after that... leading by that, with the time left, we were in complete control and not learning from last week's the most disappointing thing. Last week we had three opportunities with the line open and we didn't finish.
"Today we led at halftime and led by 10 with 16 to go. We're fighting bloody hard, we've just got to be smarter at it... at the right times. There's positives there but we're losing games of footy that we've been in position, both times, to win.
"That's the disappointing thing. A soon as a player doesn't want to win a game of footy they shouldn't be playing so every time we go out there it's about winning the two points on the day and competing as hard as you have to to get them.
"Our guys compete hard, we've got to be smarter at times abut how we do it."
It was another crucial two points let slip, with away trips to Canberra and Parramatta - albeit in empty stadiums - awaiting them over the next fortnight. They then host the Warriors in Wollongong ahead of showdowns with the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Storm in consecutive weeks.
It's a make or break stretch, with the mountain all the more steep coming from an 0-2 start and heading to the nation's capital next Thursday looking to keep their top-eight prospects afloat just three rounds into the season.