Kurri Kurri coach Ron Griffiths thought the Bulldogs had won.
So did many of the Lakes faithful.
But a dropped ball, 15 metres out and with the corner open ended the Bulldogs last gasp effort to retrieve a game they should have won.
Lakes United scored a converted try in the shadows of full-time to take a 24-20 lead, but the Bulldogs almost grabbed the lead back with an incredible last minute play.
Bulldogs five-eighth Jarom Haines retrieved the ball after the kick-off and ran rings around the defender before spreading the ball wide.
Unfortunately, wing Barry McGrady was unable to hold Jade Porter’s pass as he ran into an open line.
The Bulldogs were left lamenting what might have been and Lakes celebrated a come-from-behind victory which keeps them second, equal on points with the Maitland Pickers
“It was all but [a win],” Griffiths said.
“I think it was one of the most disappointing losses I’ve ever been involved in.
“There were moments in the game where we just didn’t work hard enough for each other. And our ill-discipline invited them out of their own half. We gave away 15 penalties and you just can’t get give the football away that many times to a quality side like that.
“In saying that, I thought we we were probably the better side but just could find that clutch play. Full credit to Lakes for the effort they showed to stay in the game.”
Griffiths has yet to re-sign as coach of Kurri next year but has indicated his interest in the position for 2019.
Bulldogs second-rower Reid Alchin and Lakes hooker Casey Burgess were both put on report in the second half.
Kurri led 12-8 at the main break, 20-12 with 17 minutes remaining and 20-18 nearing full-time.
The result means the Bulldogs slip outside the top five, with Central swapping places with Kurri from sixth to fifth after accounting for Cessnock 32-12 at St John Oval on Sunday.
LADDER: Maitland, Lakes 14; Souths, Wests 12; Central 11; Kurri 10; Macquarie 7; Cessnock 6.