A late converted try by second-rower Brad England sealed a rare victory for the Dons at the Recreation Ground in a hard-fought game which neither side – particularly the Cumbrians – could afford to lose.
The fifth-placed Dons lost winger Richard Owen with a rib injury in the opening exchanges and fell behind on eight minutes when the Cumbrians, who had failed to score in their previous two games, as they dropped from fourth to seventh, opened the scoring with a penalty.
No sooner had the game resumed following a lengthy injury stoppage after home centre Chris Taylor fell awkwardly in the tackle, than dual-registered full-back Hakim Miloudi latched onto a Whitehaven kick and raced the length of the field to score an unconverted try to put the Dons into a 4-2 lead.
The French international then set up a chance for leading try-scorer Jason Tali with a long kick but the home side scrambled the ball dead
Sheffield sexual assault: Girl, 13, victim of 'serious' sexual assault in Chapeltown
RSPCA: 9 cats and dogs looking for a new home this month at Sheffield's RSPCA branch
Water Slacks: No arrests made during armed police raid in Sheffield neighbourhood
Caught on camera in Sheffield: 10 people police want to speak to in connection with criminal investigations
Power cut Sheffield: Hundreds of homes in Hillfoot area without power ahead of 28C heatwave today
The Dons continued to force the pace and the in-form England was held just short of the line.
The Cumbrians weathered the storm and took an 8-4 lead against the run of play on the half-hour.
Loose-forward Scott McAvoy capitalised on a gap in the defensive line and scored near enough for Daniel Abram to add the extras after the Dons had been forced to drop out from under their own posts.
The visitors drew level five minutes later when Miloudi, who proved far more influential than he had done against London Skolars the previous week, helped set up the chance for Connor Bower, which the young centre finished in superb style.
Scrum-half Matty Beharrell tagged on the conversion to edge his side into a two-point lead again which was cancelled out by a second Abram penalty.
Just when it looked as though the two sides would go in level at 10-all, Doncaster wing Jack Logan got on the end of a kick through by Tali to touch down near enough for Beharrell to convert.
With both sides realising how vital the next try could prove, defences were on top for most of the third quarter and the only score was a 57th minute close-range drop goal by Miloudi which extended Doncaster’s lead beyond a converted try.
Whitehaven’s hopes rose when Doncaster winger Jack Sanderson was sin-binned at the start of the final quarter.
But their extra man advantage lasted just minutes with stand-off Ste Roper joining him in the bin.
Logan, who switched from centre when Owen went off, went close to a fourth Doncaster try a minute later.
No sooner had both sides returned to full strength than the Cumbrians added to the growing tension with an unconverted 72rd minute try by centre Jason Mossop which left them just three points adrift but that was as close as it got.
Dons: Miloudi, Sanderson, Logan, Tali, Owen, Howden, Beharrell; Scot, Kesik, Spiers, England, Mariano, Hedges. Subs: Boyle, Osbourne, Bower, Litten.