The Roosters have held on for a tense 19-14 win over St George Illawarra after a length-of-the-field Dragons try blew the game open in the final 10 minutes.
The Roosters had looked reasonably in control throughout the contest, dominating possession and field position for much of the game without really being able to transfer that into points in the face of some resolute Dragons defence.
Roosters winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall was the two-try hero for the Tricolours, moving one try past club legend Bill Mullins to 105 tries on the night, second all-time for the club behind Anthony Minichiello.
Up 18-8 inside the final 10 minutes, a length-of-the field Dragons try finished off by Gareth Widdop completely against the run of the play sparked a frantic final stanza where the Roosters had to repel several waves of attack from a Dragons side suddenly full of running but they were able to hold on, with hooker Jake Friend slotting a field goal in the dying seconds to run the clock down.
Unsurprisingly defence was the main feature of a first 40 where both sides struggled to press home their few attacking chances, although the Dragons would have been relieved to only be behind by six at the break with the Tricolours having the better of field position.
The Dragons did get out to an early lead following a James Maloney penalty goal when freshly re-signed winger Jason Nightingale rattled Blake Ferguson near his own line, forcing the centre to spill the ball and allowing Peter Mata'utia to earn his side a 6-2 lead. The shot led to Ferguson spending 10 minutes off for a concussion check.
The Roosters hit straight back though after a good set with the ball allowed Maloney to put in a precision short bomb for Kenny-Dowall on the Roosters' right flank to out-jump Nightingale.
His 104th try in red, white and blue drew him level with club legend Mullins in equal-second on the club all-time try-scoring list.
The Roosters were handed a chance when a Benji Marshall kick hit their defensive line, not for the first time in the half, and towering bench prop Kane Evans did what few have been able to this season by pushing through the Dragons defence to score in front of the posts.
The Red V had been getting punished by a 5-1 penalty count but a series of late ruck infringements pulled that back to 5-4 at half-time, as well as handing Widdop a free two points in the final minute of the half to go in just 14-8 behind.
It took almost 20 minutes from half-time for a further addition to the score, and it came from a sublime cut-out from Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck helping Kenny-Dowall to his second of the night and outright second on the club's try-scoring list.
With the Dragons looking increasingly frustrated and struggling for fluency, Dugan chased through on a Marshall chip and stayed down nursing a left arm injury that would have given NSW coach Laurie Daley some nervous moments but the Blues fullback was able to finish the game.
But just when the Dragons looked down and out a Marshall cut-out ball put stand-in winger Dylan Farrell into space, finding Euan Aitken in support. His pinpoint flick pass back to Marshall allowed the halfback to draw and pass to send Widdop on a run to the line.
The Dragons were suddenly full of running and making metres seemingly at will but when Tuivasa-Sheck and Kenny-Dowall's miscommunication off a Marshall bomb handed the Dragons a late chance, Will Mathews spilled the ball with the line open and the Roosters were able to close out the match, Friend sealing the deal with an 80th-minute field goal.
Sydney Roosters 19 (Kenny-Dowall 2, Evans tries, Maloney 3 goals; Friend field goal) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 14 (Mata'utia, Widdop tries; Widdop 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 10,185.