Josh Hannay felt a sense of déjà vu as halfback Chad Townsend kicked a golden point field to secure Cronulla's first win since the sacking of coach John Morris six weeks ago in a drama-charged clash with St George Illawarra.
Hannay, who has taken over from Morris as interim Sharks coach, performed the same role for North Queensland last season after the departure of Paul Green and his first win came in almost identical circumstances.
"It's a funny game," Hannay said. "I was just thinking last year with the Cowboys, my first win in charge was against the Dragons and it was a golden point field goal from Valentine Holmes."
For Townsend, who is moving to Townsville next season, the 84th-minute field goal was redemption after committing five errors in a match which Cronulla dominated possession and field position but never looked to be in control.
Sharks winger Mawene Hiroti also had a mixed night as he was sin-binned for a high shot on Dragons fullback Cody Ramsey, dropped the ball from a 20-metre re-start late in the game and made the break that put his side in position for Townsend to snatch a 13-12 win.
Match: Sharks v Dragons
Round 11 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
A try to fullback Will Kennedy while Josh Dugan was in the sin-bin during the second half was the turning point in the game as the Sharks regained the lead with Townsend's conversion.
"Chaddy wasn't perfect tonight but certainly he's the guy we're always going to go to in those moments," Hannay said.
"What he was able to do their in nailing his skill at the back end is a result of hard work and for someone that works as hard as he does on those little things, they're the moments that he lives for, so I was really happy for him to execute the way he did."
Dragons prop Paul Vaughan also spent time in the sin bin, while Josh Kerr and Poasa Faamausili (high tackles) and Sharks trio Blayke Brailey, Teig Wilton (crusher tackles) and Briton Nikora (high tackle) were all placed on report.
In addition, Ramsey and St George Illawarra interchange forward Jaiyden Hunt failed HIAs, while rookie winger Max Feagai, who scored both of the Dragons' tries, also did not return after a head knock.
Cronulla led 6-2 at halftime after an early try to winger Connor Tracey, with the Dragons points coming from a 40th minute penalty goal after Hiroti tackled Ramsey high as he appeared destined to score.
A try-saving tackle from Ben Hunt on his own line denied Matt Moylan and on the next play Ramsey raced 70 metres after fielding a Brailey grubber and beating four defenders before Hiroti caught him high.
Feagai got his first NRL try two minutes after the restart and with Dugan in the sin bin for a high tackle on Billy Burns, the rookie leapt above Hiroti to snatch a cross-field kick from Hunt to score again but Norman again missed the conversion.
Feagai leaps high and the Dragons hit the lead
Kennedy hit back for the Sharks eight minutes later after Moylan put him into space but a penalty against Wilton for a crusher tackle on Vaughan enabled Jack Bird to level the scores with a 75th minute goal.
Townsend and Corey Norman, who played the second half at fullback, missed field goal attempts before full-time but the Cronulla halfback made no mistake with his chance in the 84th minute to snatch a dramatic win.
"We looked like a team, with the game there to be won, who were down on confidence and had sort of forgotten how to win, particularly a close game like that," Hannay said.
"The hope obviously is getting away with that tonight it's a real page turner for us in the season and we can hopefully build some momentum from it."
Townsend steps up in golden point