The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 13-10 by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Friday.
The Dragons scored two tries in the narrow loss with both Kurt Mann and Euan Aitken getting their names on the scoresheet.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made only the one positional change prior to kick-off, with utility Jake Marketo starting in the hooking role in lieu of Mitch Rein who reverted to the interchange.
Both teams were evenly matched in what started as a physical encounter yet the visitors were unable to convert their opportunities with the ball into points.
It took an offload by Bulldogs second-rower Greg Eastwood to break the stalemate, with a quick exchange of passing resulting in five-eighth Josh Reynolds scoring under the posts.
Bulldogs halfback Moses Mybe converted the try to gift his team a 6-0 lead after 26 minutes.
The hosts added to their lead three minutes later, with hooker Michael Lichaa popping a pass out of dummy-half to charging prop Sam Kasiano.
Mybe converted the try to push the Bulldogs lead out to 12 points with 10 minutes remaining.
With only second remaining in the opening stanza, Reynolds snapped a field goal from 40 metres out to give the home side a 13-0 lead heading into the break.
Dragoons winger Kurt Mann continued his try scoring streak after the break, pouncing on five-eighth Gareth Widdop's chip across field to bring the deficit back to nine points in the 47th minute.
The Dragons took advantage of back-to-back penalties, when halfback Benji Marshall put a perfectly weighted grubber kick in for a trailing centre Euan Aitken who dove on the loose ball.
Widdop added the extra two, pulling his team to within three points to set up a trilling final quarter of the match.
However, despite an encouraging second half fightback, the visitors fell three points short of victory.
St George Illawarra Dragons: 10 Tries: Kurt Mann, Euan Aitken Goals: Gareth Widdop (1/2)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: 13 Tries: Josh Reynolds, Sam Kasiano Goals: Moses Mbye (2/2) Field Goals: Josh Reynolds