North Queensland have held off a resilient second-half comeback by an undermanned Canterbury outfit to win 30-18 in Townsville.
Tries after the break to Reece Robson, Ben Condon, Jake Granville and Mitchell Dunn were enough for the Cowboys to hold on to their lead as the Bulldogs surged in the dying stages at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Bulldogs' Will Hopoate had a try disallowed with the Cowboys leading 24-18 with just three minutes remaining, before Dunn's solo effort in the 78th minute iced the game.
It wasn't the 80-minute performance Todd Payten was looking for, with the Cowboys coach saying it exposed tendencies in his side.
"I think that performance just indicates where we're really at as a team and a club," he said.
"We have moments and patches, and we have some decision-making errors that we still need to improve if we're to get any better.
""We have a tendency to get bored with what we're doing.
"I think we're trying hard, I just don't think we're being smart enough."
The major talking point of the match was Jack Hetherington's sending off in the 55th minute with both teams at odds over the decision.
Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett thought the hit on Valentine Holmes was not intentional whereas Payten thought the send-off was the right call.
Nonetheless, Hetherington became the first player to be sent off in 2021 after his head-high tackle on Holmes which made a comeback unlikely for his side.
The Cowboys quickly made the most of the extra man scoring under the posts through Granville, but the Bulldogs weren't done with yet.
Kyle Flanagan and Tuipulotu Katoa both crossed in under 10 minutes bringing the differential to just six points, but the Cowboys held out and won their second straight game moving to 2-4 for the season.
Francis Molo was huge for the hosts off the bench, running for 163m, while Granville's second-half injection exploited holes in a tiring Canterbury defence.
Holmes finished perfect off the boot kicking five from five, while leading his team with 196 running metres.
After a stale first half with 15 errors between the sides, it was the Cowboys who came out with more control and desire in the second half to notch consecutive wins for the first time since round three last year.
For Canterbury, their 2021 woes continue sliding to 0-6 for the season with matches comimg up against Cronulla, Parramatta and St George.