Adam Reynolds had seemingly blown South Sydney's hopes of a dramatic comeback against the Cowboys when he hooked a sideline conversion that would've tied the scores in the 76th minute.
But the Rabbitohs captain's agony quickly turned to ecstasy as he landed a penalty goal and then the 20th field goal of his career to snag a 31-30 Townsville thriller at the death on Saturday night.
The Cowboys had pulled ahead by a converted try in the 73rd minute and looked to have done enough to secure an upset win. But South Sydney winger Alex Johnston crossed a few minutes later to lay the platform for an unbelievable finish.
North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt's mistakes proved costly for the hosts. He missed four conversions and gave away the crucial penalty with a strip that allowed Reynolds to level up.
Scott Drinkwater and Michael Morgan had loomed as the heroes of the evening, with the pair instrumental in the Cowboys' newfound attacking flair.
Relive the final moments of Cowboys v Rabbitohs
Drinkwater set up two sensational four-pointers with kicks – one a try of the year contender to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in the first half and the other nearly the game-winner to Tom Opacic.
Morgan rebounded from a horror performance against the Titans to score a double and remind fans what North Queensland have missed for most of the season when he was out with a shoulder injury.
Match: Cowboys v Rabbitohs
Round 14 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Reynolds's heroics weren't limited to the finish, with the No.7 starting the Rabbitohs' roll when he scored in the 11th minute by combining smarts and skills.
Noticing fullback Drinkwater defending in the line, he produced a terrific chip-and-chase from 20 metres out to touch down.
South Sydney's jubilation was fleeting, however, with North Queensland advancing into attacking territory after Liam Knight was penalised and placed on report for a crusher tackle on Feldt. The hosts smoothly shifted right where centre Connelly Lemuelu crossed for his first NRL try.
Perked up, the Cowboys took the game to South Sydney by forcing three drop-outs with their halves heavily involved. Ben Hampton trapped Jaxson Paulo in-goal from a Morgan kick, then Morgan returned the favour by smashing Johnston.
Points didn't come in that period but a Rabbitohs error gifted North Queensland another shot. Captain Morgan, who gave an honest appraisal about last week's unhappy outing in a pre-game interview on Fox League, was delighted after slicing through in the corner.
Morgan wore the No.7 but his sweeping run at second-receiver was reminiscent of the Maroons representative's fullback days.
Now Opacic plucks the lead back for North Queensland
The hosts were running hot and delivered an audacious play in their own half that paid huge dividends. Drinkwater had the courage and execution to kick across field 25 metres out from his own line and hit the flying Tabuai-Fidow on the chest.
Catching the ball before half-way, the teenage winger stood up Paulo with some dazzling footwork and slammed on the accelerator.
Feldt's missed conversion left North Queensland with a six-point lead that didn't reflect their dominance.
Cook has players in motion and Graham scores
The Rabbitohs would have been rapt when they levelled up, as centre Dane Gagai cut open the right-edge defence after Reynolds and five-eighth Cody Walker linked nicely.
Still, North Queensland deserved to lead at the break and they did after Feldt kicked a penalty goal to end the opening term.
The Rabbitohs may have been fortunate to score first in the second half. A few plays prior, Knight dropped the pill and gathered the bounce, with referee Chris Butler ruling it was play on after being knocked out by the Cowboys.
Johnston has his double in the game that keeps on giving
Walker didn't give them much time to protest, zinging the Steeden to Johnston who sped down the touchline to grab four points.
Morgan stepped up again for his troops, twisting and turning in a tackle to determinedly secure his double in the 50th minute. Feldt's goal restored North Queensland's lead.
It evaporated once more when Damien Cook threw a lovely face ball to centre Campbell Graham and he withstood a robust challenge from Hampton to reach the in-goal.
The points-fest continued as second-rower Mitch Dunn picked up the scraps from a Johnston error after a ricocheted Morgan kick threw him off. Dunn dashed 30 metres to collect his maiden NRL try.
Drinkwater looked to have sealed the win with his kick for Opacic but the frantic finishing sequence kept the Rabbitohs firmly entrenched in the top eight.
There were concerns for the visitors though with second-rower Bayley Sironen limping off with a lower leg injury late in the match.
Gagai try gets South Sydney back level