It was the type of match you could just see the Dragons losing last year, and both coach Steve Price and skipper Ben Creagh know it.
In a disappointing 2013 the Dragons lost seven matches by four points or less, but Price was rapt his team won another local derby "dogfight", with their 14-12 triumph over the Sharks giving St. George Illawarra their first 3-0 start to a season since 2010's championship year.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight down here, we knew what to expect and we certainly got that tonight but the effort and commitment they've shown for each other and the team and to keep them to 12 points is very pleasing," said Price.
The Dragons were kept scoreless in the second half but managed to hold out a plucky Cronulla side searching for its first win in front of 14,821 screaming fans, and Price admitted his side was guilty of letting the Sharks back into the contest.
"We went away from our plan that was working really good in that first half, and we fell into the trap of just protecting our lead, but that's a lesson learnt," said Price.
Captain Ben Creagh said the change in the side's mental state was there for all to see in the gutsy two point win.
"There's a bit of confidence to the side which is great but what I noticed when they scored that try with 10 to go and it was 14-12 and I went back behind the goal line, blokes were keen to get back out there and defend again and defend our lead," said Creagh.
"They kept working hard for each other and that's something I think we were missing last year."
With his side hosting fellow competition surprise packets Brisbane in Wollongong next week followed by tough away games against South Sydney and Melbourne, Price said the Dragons would take plenty out of their hard fought victory.
"All NRL games are tough nowadays and we got one tonight and an even bigger task next Friday.
"We're heading in the right direction. The boys are believing in themselves, believing in the plan and they're really enjoying themselves and that's what's important."
Price was also positive about the return of injured NSW fullback Josh Dugan, saying the star custodian would be likely to return in either one or two weeks from the knee injury he sustained in the Charity Shield.