A tormented night under the high ball ended in the worst possible fashion for Broncos fullback Ben Barba when he was unable to control a spiralling Albert Kelly bomb and Aidan Sezer pinched a 12-8 victory for the Titans in the south-east Queensland derby at Cbus Super Stadium.
The frantic finish earned the Titans their fifth win from six games and for 24 hours at least a four-point buffer at the top of the Telstra Premiership table.
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Having been the saviour just eight minutes earlier when his leg prevented Titans forward Mark Minichiello from grounding the ball in the in-goal, Barba – who had spilled a similar kick from Kelly in the 16th minute and seemed disinterested in any high balls thereafter – let a bomb bounce next to his posts that cannoned straight up into the air.
As he tried to bring it under control, Sezer stole it from his grasp and scored beside the posts, his subsequent conversion giving the home side a four-point lead that they were able to protect for the final six minutes in front of 20,524 fans.
The Broncos took a 6-0 lead into the half-time break and extended their lead to eight in the 43rd minute when Corey Parker was taken high and duly converted the ensuing penalty from in front of the posts.
With Ashley Harrison (shoulder) and Anthony Don (dislocated finger) both leaving the field with injuries a matter of moments apart, the Titans were forced to tackle with a patched-up defensive line and twice went close to having their line breached for a second time.
Broncos back-rower Sam Thaiday was held up in the 50th minute and then Todd Lowrie was also denied by the video referee 10 minutes later. That call proved to be crucial as from the next play a Ben Hunt grubber was collected by Titans fullback David Mead one metre from his tryline and he raced 99 metres to score in the corner, kept out wide courtesy of a valiant effort by Broncos prop Josh McGuire.
That seemed to spark the Titans to life and with a more direct attack pushing the Broncos back through the middle of the ruck they were able to gather momentum that was almost first rewarded with a try to Minichiello, and then Sezer's match-winner in the 73rd minute.
A golden opportunity went begging for the Broncos with about 15 minutes remaining, when Josh Hoffman spilt the ball over the try-line.
The Titans had a chance to extend their lead on full-time when Greg Bird had a shot at penalty goal from 40 metres out but when it hit the post and bounced back into the field of play, the Broncos launched one more chaotic attacking raid before it was brought to an end with a knock-on on the 30-metre line.
Despite dominating territory and possession in the opening 25 minutes of the match, the Titans were continually repelled by a Broncos defence that wasn't asked any seriously difficult questions.
With Dave Taylor bullocking his way forward on the right side and being heavily involved in defence, the Titans had 55 per cent of the ball and spent 22 minutes in the Broncos' half in the first 40 but they never seriously threatened the Brisbane tryline.
Twice they handed over possession on the first tackle from a scrum win inside the Broncos' 20-metre line and the end of their attacking sets invariably ended with either Sezer or Kelly launching kicks to the corners.
On a number of occasions those kicks earned repeat sets but the Broncos defence held firm, and then they took one of their few chances to attack.
A busy Ben Hunt finally hit pay-dirt when he darted left down the short side and poked his nose through the Titans defence. The Broncos half's offload released Alex Glenn into the backfield and with only fullback David Mead to beat, Hunt backed up on the inside to score under the posts, his fifth four-pointer in six games.
Corey Parker added the obligatory two points and the Broncos opened up a 6-0 lead that they took into the main break.
There was one nervous moment in the 28th minute when Broncos back-rower Sam Thaiday was penalised for a lifting tackle on Matthew White but upon review seemed relatively innocuous and barely worthy of a penalty.
Mead looked like the Titan most likely to breach the Broncos defence through the middle of the ruck but for the most part the home side was guilty of playing too laterally and allowing the Brisbane defence to simply slide and shut them down on the edges.
Although he came up with some brutal tackles that Titans defensive coach Trevor Gillmeister would have been proud to call his own, Titans hooker Paul Carter was placed on report for the high tackle on Parker in the 43rd minute.Gold Coast Titans 12
(David Mead, Aidan Sezer tries; Aidan Sezer 2 goals) def Brisbane Broncos 8
(Ben Hunt try; Corey Parker 2 goals). Crowd: