Shaun Johnson only needed 33 minutes to tear the Bulldogs to shreds.
But with fears his hamstring now resembles some of the threadbare defence shown by Canterbury and Cronulla on Sunday, the Sharks' planned run up the NRL ladder toward a finals assault faces a sizeable hurdle in the wake of a nervy 44-24 victory.
Johnson's history of soft-tissue injuries – he has suffered multiple hamstring issues in the past two years along with a long-term Achilles rupture – has naturally raised fears over when, or if, the Warriors-bound star will be seen next in Sharks colours.
Cronulla coach Josh Hannay will await scans on Monday, wary of the impact injuries had in a mid-season slump that had the Sharks sat in 14th position just two months ago.
"We won't know the severity of his hamstring injury there until tomorrow," Hannay said.
Match: Bulldogs v Sharks
Round 19 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
"We'll just cross our fingers that it's not too bad, we're starting to get a little bit thin again ... we've got some good talent on the pine again at the moment and that's not ideal.
"One thing I know about Shaun is he looks after himself. He's a reasonably quick healer and I know he'll jump into his recovery and rehab to get back as quick as he can."
Halves partner Braydon Trindall at least eased any worries over the goalkicking duties – which Johnson had already relinquished – with eight goals from nine attempts.
Matt Moylan meanwhile is bidding to return from his latest calf injury next week against Manly.
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A month ago Johnson knocked the Bulldogs back to make a storied return at the Warriors next year. On Sunday he twisted the knife throughout a five-star first-half showing.
But with two try-assists to his name, Johnson pulled up lame as he went about engineering another Sharks raid down their right edge, immediately making his way into the sheds, his afternoon over.
Cronulla led 18-6 when Johnson limped off and had 30 points by the time they joined their laid up halfback in the change rooms.
They appeared to remain there after the break as Storm-bound Bulldogs No.1 Nick Meaney latched onto a cross-field bomb to score.
Two minutes later he repeated the play against uninterested Sharks defenders and found Dylan Napa for a rare try, trimming the margin back to 30-18.
"We've got a pattern with that," Hannay lamented.
Johnson forced from the field with leg injury
"When we get out to a comfortable lead this year ... we've been in really comfortable positions in second halves and we end up holding on. We've been run down a couple of times as well.
"I don't know what the mindset is and I'm not a psychologist, but there's something within us that when we get into that comfortable position we really power down."
A barge-over by big man Toby Rudolf – another to knock back a lucrative Bulldogs offer earlier in the year – resumed regular programming for the now seventh-placed Sharks.
Thompson on report and sent to the sin bin for late hit on Brailey
Once again though Canterbury could not be put to bed.
Marquee English middle Luke Thompson – who stood head and shoulders above most all on the paddock – beat four in a 40-metre crash course from halfway, before finding Jake Averillo in another nervous Cronulla moment.
Thompson would finish with a try, 180 run metres, 10 tackle busts and 31 tackles, in a telling performance given Canterbury have added Tevita Pangai jnr to their 2022 pack and are planning to do the same with Paul Vaughan.
No 'jumping at shadows' for Hannay around Johnson injury
The big Brit's numbers could have been even more impressive.
But he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for what referee Chris Sutton described as "very late" contact on Blayke Brailey, with "a whiplash" level of force.
After pushing the Roosters and Rabbitohs all the way in recent weeks, Canterbury's first half seemed more befitting of their last-place status.
Another lofted pass and some more acrobatics from Katoa
Johnson had himself a field day early as Sione Katoa had an opening four-pointer denied by about four millimetres of white paint when he launched himself for the corner.
Johnson made sure he had ample room for his next crack, a bullet ball sending Katoa over in the 10th minute before Ronaldo Mulitalo strolled over on the opposite edge five minutes later.
Thompson's barge-over effort kept Canterbury in it, but his sin-binning ensured Johnson and co. took on a shortened defensive line once more.
Katoa once eyed rugby sevens as a potential career given the Olympic opportunities the rival code offers but when Johnson lobbed a bouncing ball his way, a late bid for a start at Tokyo took flight.
Katoa duly took the half chance, added a somersault and half-pike as well as his second for the afternoon as Cronulla forged an 18-6 lead.
Further tries to Will Kennedy and Siosifa Talakai had the Sharks absolutely swimming even with Johnson's injury, and a telling points-differential boost on offer.
Their -60 differential prior to kick-off sat in the same ballpark as the Dragons (-46), Raiders (-72) and Titans (-52) with the Gold Coast sitting two competition points shy of their three rivals.
The Bulldogs' three second half tries ensured Cronulla didn't take giant strides in that department, with the contest never truly done until Connor Tracey streaked away late.
When Johnson might do the same is now the Sharks' chief concern.