Sam Walker made it look easy to come up with the match-winning plays but Roosters coach Trent Robinson lauded his team's patience on their way to securing their 11th win of the season.
Cowboys flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow made a statement at fullback but Walker brushed his goal-kicking woes aside to steal the show late as the Roosters overcame North Queensland 34-18 on Saturday.
Walker came up with a match-defining try and two try assists in the final 15 minutes after both sides were locked 18-18 in 29-degree heat at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
As impressed with Walker as Robinson was, the lead-up play from Victor Radley and Isaac Liu caught his eye more, helping get the Tricolours on the front foot with the game in the balance.
"That short pass, to have the courage to short pass at 18-all, for Isaac Liu to pass that and Rads to shout down the door," Robinson said.
"As a coach you'll get technical tomorrow but I saw a team today.
"I'm really excited by that. I absolutely loved the way we played today.
Victor Radley down the middle and Walker scores off the fast ball
"I loved the way the team went about pressuring them at the back end. We were patient. We haven't been patient.
"We were happy to sit at 14-12. We've been a team that has been where we want to score on every play.
"I saw the patience of a team today. It's the first time this year we've been like that. I'm really pumped. I saw the embers of a team that wants to play that way."
Match: Cowboys v Roosters
Round 18 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Walker overcame a difficult week of criticism following his last-play option against the Bulldogs last week to continue his impressive rookie season.
His last-tackle plays with the game on the line were a complete contrast to Cowboys halves Scott Drinkwater and Tom Dearden, who struggled with the same composure when it mattered.
There was more bad news for North Queensland with centre Javid Bowen suffering a suspected ACL injury.
"He's really upset," Cowboys coach Todd Payten said of Bowen. "He's going to be out for an extended period. I think it's the worst."
The Tricolours did it the hard way, forced to come from behind after the Cowboys held a 12-0 lead early.
Both sides lost their fullbacks pre-game with Valentine Holmes (shoulder) and James Tedesco (rested) missing following their Origin III duties.
The loss of Holmes was Tabuai-Fidow's gain for the Cowboys with the latest Maroons debutant proving a threat for the Roosters all game at the back.
The Origin debutant definitely left his mark on the game with 261 metres off 20 runs, but it wasn't enough in the end.
Sublime offload from Morris and Ikuvalu gets a double on the siren
An off afternoon with the goal-kicking boot from Walker kept the Cowboys in the contest after the Tricolours piled on four tries midway through the contest to snatch an 18-12 lead.
A runaway effort from Tabuai-Fidow with 18 minutes remaining led to Reece Robson scoring next to the posts and set up a grandstand finish until Walker's heroics swung momentum back the Roosters' way.
Equally as impressive was Joey Manu, who came up with two try-saving plays late, including on Tabuai-Fidow, to help the visitors escape with a win.
The Cowboys came out firing to strike twice inside 13 minutes with Drinkwater at his weaving best to set up tries for Javid Bowen and Tabuai-Fidow.
Drinkwater sliced the Tricolours on the left edge out of dummy half to set up Bowen before providing an offload for Tabuai-Fidow to put on the afterburners and beat Manu to the line.
The Hammer in open space alert!
However, the turning point came midway through the first half when Shane Wright was placed on report for a crusher tackle on Roosters hooker Sam Verrills.
While Wright remained on the field, the momentum swung in favour of the visitors with NSW forward Angus Crichton crossing with his first touch after coming off the bench.
The Roosters began to build their base after points and went back-to-back nine minutes later through Billy Smith on the left edge.
In just his second game back from an injury-ravaged two seasons, Smith charged over the line from close range to narrow the Cowboys lead 12-10.
Payten's decision to bring Jason Taumalolo from the field while the side was leading last week against South Sydney drew some attention and the same thing occurred again on Saturday.
The first half comeback was complete with 40 seconds left on the clock for the Roosters when Manu went through a gaping hole for a 14-12 lead to his side at the break.
A 40-20 effort from Drew Hutchison offered the Roosters an opportunity to extend the lead with Walker sending Matt Ikuvalu over in the corner.
A double movement call on Drinkwater killed off any chance of a Cowboys comeback before Walker set up Sitili Tupouniua and Ikuvalu grabbed a double on the siren to ice the win.