Doncaster maintained their record of not suffering back-to-back defeats with victory over Whitehaven in their first-ever game at Castle Park.
But they needed a 78th minute try by dual-registered second-rower Dean Hadley to avoid sharing the spoils for a second time in three games.
The Cumbrians, who had fancied their chances of completing the double when the match was switched to the home of Doncaster Knights’ home ground in midweek, were always in contention and were disappointed to only bank a losing bonus point.
Their performance certainly belied their poor away record this season, as well as underlining their impressive home display against leaders Leigh seven days earlier had not been a one-off.
The Dons made the early running and it was against the run of play when the visitors broke the deadlock.
Centre Jessie Joe Parker latched on to a Doncaster grubber kick close to his own line but lacked the pace to go all the way and was nailed after a 50 metre run.
The Cumbrians capitalised on their foothold in the Doncaster half, however, and centre Chris Taylor touched down for tenth-minute try – the officials failing to spot a blatant obstruction – from winger Shaun Ainscough’s break down the right.
The Dons, who had a 20th minute try by man-of-the-match Richard Wilkinson disallowed, drew level when player-coach Paul Cooke, a doubt all week with a knee problem, put hooker Kyle Kesik over from close range for a try goaled by full-back Dave Scott
Liam Welham and Kesik were both held up over the line in quick succession, as was Russ Spiers.
The Dons’ pressure finally paid off on 37 minutes when Wilkinson went over from close range.
The Dons increased their lead within three minutes of the restart, Wilkinson supplying the pass which sent centre Liam Cunningham over for a close-range converted try.
Whitehaven hit back on 50 minutes, full-back Tom Carr beating his Doncaster counterpart to a neat chip by Southernwood and juggling the ball prior touching down near enough for the half-back to convert.
The Cumbrians drew level on 56 minutes, second-rower Lee Mitchell breaking the line from ten metres out. Brett Seymour was wide with a 20m drop kick attempt on 65 minutes.
The Dons tested Whitehaven from kicks on both flanks in a thrilling finish prior to Hadley’s late heroics.
n Dons: Scott, Sanderson, Welham, Cunningham, Hodson, Cooke, Wilkinson, Carbutt, Kesik, Robinson, Hadley, Colbon, Emmett. Subs: Spaven, Spiers, Snitch, Kelly.
Referee: D Merrick
n It’s desperate times for Sheffield Eagles as they slumped to a sixth home league defeat of the season in a 32-14 loss to Halifax.
Alarm bells are starting to ring as the defending champions slip ever closer to the relegation places.
“We’re still digging and if we keep on we’ll end up in Australia,” said coach Mark Aston. “We are where we are and there were a lot of dead men walking out there today and that puts me in not a great position.”
Eagles were on the back foot for most of the game and two late tries couldn’t disguise a lacklustre performance.