Manly has grabbed fourth spot — at least temporarily — with a 26-12 win over Wests Tigers at Brookvale Oval to kick off round 22.
The Sea Eagles were rarely threatened, leading 18-6 at the break on the way to a comfortable victory.
Look back at how the match unfolded.
Manly too strong on horror night for Tigers
Daly Cherry-Evans controlled the game perfectly for the Sea Eagles as he set up two first-half tries to put Manly into the top four provisionally ahead of South Sydney.
It was a horror Thursday night for the Tigers, who could finish the round as low as 12th after two-straight losses.
With Robbie Farah already in doubt for the rest of the season, hooker Jacob Liddle suffered a serious knee injury in the sixth minute and didn’t return.
There were significant fears for the young hooker, who copped friendly fire from a teammate on his lower left leg before he went to ground.
Half-back Luke Brooks was also placed on report for dropping his knees on Manly forward Jack Gosiewski, sparking an early-match melee.
Benji Marshall offered the only real bright spark, putting on a perfect ball out the back for David Nofoaluma to score the Tigers’ sole first-half try while Brooks crossed for a late consolation four-pointer.
The result means the joint venture will likely need to win their last three games to maintain any hope of breaking an eight-year finals drought.
In the most important game of the Tigers’ season, they were barely given a sniff by a Sea Eagles side who had dropped just two games this year at Brookvale.
Manly controlled 63 per cent of possession and forced five line dropouts, including two that came after defenders pushed the Tigers back into their own in-goal.
Cherry-Evans was key to that and he combined with Gosiewski for Manly’s opening two tries, the first with a grubber and the second a perfectly timed short ball.
Tom Trbojevic was back to his electric best with 251 metres, while Dylan Walker also played one of his best games in the number six jersey.
The pair combined for the game’s most-important try just before half-time from their own end, after Walker found Trbojevic back on his inside before the full-back sent the trailing five-eighth over.
It was Manly’s second four-pointer in the three minutes before the break, giving them an 18-6 lead and all but ending the Tigers’ hopes.
Jorge Taufua, Moses Suli and Addin Fonua-Blake all crossed in the final 20 minutes, giving the Sea Eagles a crucial for-and-against boost.
At this point last year, Trent Barrett’s resignation as coach had been tendered en route to Manly’s 15th-placed finish.