Rampaging back-rower Coen Hess has shrugged aside the absence of Jason Taumalolo and Matt Scott along with scores of Titans defenders to seal the Cowboys' 32-26 win over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.
For the fourth week in succession the Titans dawdled out of the blocks and while the Cowboys completed at 100 per cent with 80 per cent of the ball the home side could complete only one of their first four sets of the game.
It allowed the Cowboys to race out to a 10-0 lead after 19 minutes but the Titans made good use of the little football that they had to score two tries of their own and actually lead 12-10 after 32 minutes.
Tries to Gideon Gela-Mosby on debut and Kalyn Ponga saw the Cowboys take a 20-12 lead into half-time but it wasn't until two barnstorming efforts from Hess in the space of 10 minutes late in the second half that North Queensland sealed the two competition points.
After a perfect first half with the ball the Cowboys' error rate invited the Titans back into the contest early in the second half and a superb cut-out pass from Tyrone Roberts saw Tyronne Roberts-Davis score millimetres inside the sideline to get his side back within a converted try in the 55th minute.
A Kane Elgey grubber that went dead in-goal released the pressure the Titans were mounting heading into the final quarter and after Kyle Feldt got the Cowboys on the front foot from the restart Hess wrestled through the attempted tackle of four Titans defenders to plant the ball with his left hand outstretched in the 61st minute.
He was at it again 10 minutes later when with a head of steam and running of Johnathan Thurston Hess steamrolled his way over three Titans players who simply didn't have the manpower to stop him.
Dale Copley completed his Titans debut with a second try in the 75th minute and Daniel Vidot dived on a spilled Ash Taylor bomb as the full-time siren sounded but for the third time this season they simply gave themselves too much work to do after such a poor start.
The Titans made a number of changes to their line-up prior to kick-off with Tyrone Roberts shifting from hooker to take the place of Tyler Cornish at fullback and Ryan Simpkins coming into the starting side at dummy-half but they barely got their hands on the football for the first 20 minutes of the game.
In the fourth minute a Jake Granville grubber was unable to be grasped by Roberts and Johnathan Thurston did what he always does, following the play to collect the crumbs and open the scoring with his first try of the year.
A 5-0 penalty count running the way of the Cowboys enabled Thurston to extend the lead to 10-0 courtesy of two penalty goals from close range but when the tide eventually did turn the Titans had no problems scoring points of their own.
Showing remarkable resolve and on the back of an Ash Taylor-earned repeat set the Titans tested the Cowboys' left-edge defence time and again before a late offload from Leivaha Pulu down the Titans' left edge allowed Ryan Simpkins to hit Copley out wide, with the new recruit stretching out with the left hand to score just inside the corner post.
Earning their second penalty of the half, the Titans ventured into Cowboys territory for only the second time in the game and again came away with the points. A sublime set play that started on the left before switching to the right put Roberts in space who passed off to Pulu and then doubled around to take the return offload to dive over and take an unlikely lead after 32 minutes.
The Cowboys were gifted another shot at the Titans courtesy of a Ryan James error and finished their 16th successive set with Ponga and Gela-Mosby reigniting a combination that proved fruitful in the 20s for Gela-Mosby to score on debut.
When Gela-Mosby received Ponga's cut-out pass wide on the left there were plenty of blue shirts ahead of him but he used his blistering speed and evasive skills to elude them all and put his side back in front four minutes from half-time.
Ponga sparked another Cowboys raid from the very next set with a break from mid-field and although his first claims to a four-pointer were denied by the Bunker the 18-year-old trailed Thurston in the ensuing set to race across untouched and register his first try in the top grade.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Coen Hess 2, Johnathan Thurston, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Kalyn Ponga tries; Thurston 6 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 26 (Dale Copley 2, Tyrone Roberts, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Daniel Vidot tries; Ashley Taylor 3 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium.