A knockout performance from James Tedesco returned the Roosters to the top four and helped restore their heavyweight reputation while all but ending the Dragons' finals hopes.
The Roosters led 14-0 late in the first half then had to endure a three-try comeback from the Red V, who claimed the lead midway through the second half before they produced a stunning four-try burst to win 40-22.
Tedesco set up his side's first three tries and four all up, racking up more than 300 metres with three line breaks and 12 tackle busts.
The Roosters' hopes of finishing in the top four hinge on next Friday's clash with traditional rivals South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium and coach Trent Robinson said his injury-ravaged side would keep punching above their weight.
"I feel like there are heavyweight fighters in our competition and we feel like we started off as lightweights, as featherweights and we keep putting on weight each week. And we keep putting on weight we might get up to their division soon," he said.
Match: Dragons v Roosters
Round 23 -
Venue: Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba
"Let's see where we get on Friday night and let's see where we get in the next couple of weeks."
Sunday's impressive win came despite the club's injury woes getting even worse, with centre Adam Keighran failing an HIA after contact suffered just 12 minutes in, casting huge doubt over his availability to face the Rabbitohs next Friday off a five-day turnaround.
Back-rower Nat Butcher also came from the field shortly after the break with a knee injury while Siosiua Taukeiaho was taken for an HIA seven minutes from full-time.
Tedesco wreaking more havoc as Tupouniua scores
Hooker Sam Verills (arm), winger Dale Copley (leg) and prop Jared Waerea-Hargeaves (knee) also struggled with injury at various stages.
"We've had a lot of guys that played more minutes than they've had to play," Robinson said.
"Lachie Lam played the 80 minutes, Sam Verrills played 80 minutes, Egan Butcher went on very early and played big minutes, Fletcher Baker.
"We had Benny Thomas who played a big long stint there. Guys who played longer minutes than normal and just held their cool."
Robinson felt this game was the appropriate time to give Lam a start in the halves and manage Walker's workload by starting him from the bench, but was noncommittal about whether that would be a feature going forward.
"You never know ... I've got some good young experienced halves in Lachie and Drewy and Sammy that are here to play footy," he said.
"I felt like today was the day for a bit of shift in there and get Lachie in there and we'll see on Friday. I'll keep making a choice around that. All three of them will be playing a lot of footy I know that."
The Dragons had some joy through the middle part of the contest, with makeshift hooker Jayden Sullivan doing an excellent job along with rookie five-eighth Talatau Amone.
Sam Walker with a try assist you need to see
The Dragons showed some incredible defensive resolve in the opening 10 minutes to shut down four Roosters try-scoring chances, including a wonderful cover tackle from the maligned Dufty and an in-goal strip from Kaide Ellis on Isaac Liu.
They should have then opened the scoring after breaking into space but Mikaele Ravalawa's last pass to Dufty went forwards.
The rest of the first half was the James Tedesco show, as the Roosters captain set up three straight tries and ran for more than 200 metres for the half.
A Jared Waerea-Hargreaves offload started things in the 12th minute with Tedesco breaking into space and setting up Egan Butcher who was fresh on the field with Keighran going off.
Just four minutes later a long-range line break from Lachlan Lam put the Roosters on the attack. Tedesco spotted an overlap out wide and fired a cut-out for Dale Copley to score.
Tedesco weaves in and out then delivers it to Copley
Lam and Tedesco combined well in the 34th minute to put stand-in centre Sitili Tupouniua over, with his 12th try of the season taking him to the top of the club's try-scoring list for the season.
The Roosters were stunned moments before the break when Dufty burst onto a Norman short ball and had the ball stripped by Tedesco in the act of scoring with McGuire pouncing to make it 14-6 at the break.
A superb pass from Zac Lomax sent Ravalawa on a free run to the line in the 49th minute and three minutes later Jack Bird marked a bomb in-goal and raced to the 20. From there, he, Lomax and then Mat Feagai combined to go the length.
They held the lead for just four minutes before a lovely piece of skill from Sam Walker set up Daniel Tupou in the corner, with the winger making it a five-minute double when he out-jumped Ravalawa to a Hutchison bomb in the 61st minute.
A hot-stepping Walker embarrassed the Dragons' goal-line defence in the 65th minute and Drew Hutchison added a well-earned try in the 70th minute to effectively end the contest at 36-16.
The Dragons scored late as Sullivan crossed late off a Billy Burns line-break set up by Corey Norman before Tupou bagged his hat-trick right as the final siren sounded – set up by who else but Tedesco.