The Dons looked to be heading for a narrow defeat when scrum-half Jack Miller failed to convert centre Jason Tali’s late try out wide. But with the hooter about to sound, after a lengthy spell of injury-time, the Dons were awarded a penalty and the young half-back held his nerve to tie the scores.
Raiders were quickly out of the blocks, winger Luke Cresswell touching down from close range out wide after three minutes.
The Cumbrians, beaten just once in the league this season, continued to make the running.
The Dons, who were playing into the near gale-force wind, defended well but conceded a second try on 13 minutes when play-maker Jamie Dallimore ducked under a tackle ten metres out to score near enough for half-back partner Lewis Charnock to convert to make it 10-0.
Little had been seen of the Dons in attack until caretaker coach Pete Green put prop Zac Braham over from close range for a try converted by Miller.
Raiders opened up 14-6 lead, centre Declan Hulme wrong-footing the defence ten metres out - Charnock hitting the woodwork for a second time.
The Dons rarely breached the Barrow 20 in the second quarter but when they did a handling mistake proved costly.
Cresswll bombed a good chance for Raiders prior to having a try disallowed.
Raiders continued to dominate the territorial exchanges but had to settle for an injury-time Charnock penalty.
The Dons turned defence into attack at the death but the move broke down 30 metres out.
Dallimore extended Barrow’s lead to 18-6 on 50 minutes following a high tackle on Charnock – a score which left the Dons needing to score three times to take the lead.
The Dons closed the gap to just six points on 57 minutes when Jordie Hedges put Tali over for his 12th try of the season and Miller added the touchline conversion.
There was a let-off as Barrow prop Joe Bullock dropped the ball over the line in the act of scoring. But he made amends on 68 minutes, running strongly before sending centre Eze Harper over from close range for a converted try to make it 24-12.
The Dons hit back strongly and prop Russ Spiers was held just short on the last tackle.
They weren’t to be denied, however, and Hedges was on hand to support a strong break by Tali. Miller added the extras from wide out to make it 24-18 to set up a grandstand finish.
Their chance of salvaging a result looked to have been dashed when hard-working second-rower Brad England dropped the ball over the line.