It was everything you would want from a Coalfields derby - tough, uncompromsing, niggly - but in the end it was Cessnock's grit and courage that won out as the Maitland Pickers were bundled out of contention for the 2019 title.
In wet, blustery conditions the Goannas hung on desperately for a brave 14-10 win at Maitland Sportsground - as good a win as any this season.
In many ways it was a match that could have gone either way, but it would have been unfair for the Goannas to lose - they were away from home, they led from the start, they lost a man to the sin-bin with the match in the balance, but still they didn't fold.
The win puts Cessnock into the minor semi-final against South Newcastle at Cessnock on Saturday - a match that, on this showing, they are more than capable of winning.
It seems inconceivable that only a few weeks back that frustrated coach Todd Edwards had announced he was standing down at the end of the season as the revolving door of Goanna coaches looked set to continue spinning.
Now firmly committed to next season, he finds his team only two wins from a grand final and most definitely gaining momentum. The thought of playing Souths - last season's premiers - certainly won't worry them.
Ironically, the win over Maitland spelt the end of Luke Dorn's two-year tenure as the Pickers' mentor.
It was a clash that epitomised derby battles.
Some of the body contact in the forward exchanges could be heard from the grandstand; there was excitement with Maitland trailing by a try but on the attack near the tryline with less than two minutes to go; there was controversy with Cessnock's Scott Briggs controversially sin-binned and a penalty overturned late in the second half; there was niggle aplenty; the crowd was heavily involved ...
But Cessnock, after leading 14-nil at the start of the second half, refused to fold.
The Goannas, running with the strong wind at their back, dominated the first half. With Briggs calling the shots they dominated field position.
Prop Brendan Hlad took advantage of a Briggs 40-20 when he stepped his way through the Pickers defence to open the scoring.
It was a soft try, but it gave the Goannas the start they needed - 6-0 after eight minutes.
Two penalty goals gave Cessnock a 10-nil lead at half time. But the strong breeze was probably worth 10 points, so it was still very much game on.
The first 90 seconds after the break proved decisive.
Cessnock worked the blind side from 45 metres out, tempted Pickers five-eighth Frazer Price to come in off his man, and winger Joe Woodbury found himself unmarked and did the rest with a strong run down the touch line - 14-nil.
Two quick tries to Maitland, the first to winger Isaac Upton and then to replacement hooker Hayden Grainger made it 14-10 with 17 minutes to go.
With Peter Cronin ferocious in defence, and Sam Anderson getting stronger as the match went on, it looked like Maitland - with the wind at their back - could pinch it in the dying minutes.
For Cessnock Hlad was in everything, Paul Carter busy and centre Josh Charles was proving a nightmare for the defence with his power and aggression.
It was nail-biting stuff. Cessnock's cause received a body blow when skipper Briggs was sin-binned and a Cessnock penalty overturned right on their own tryline in the dying minutes.
It all came down to a scrum, ten metres out for Cessnock's line, two minutes to go ...
But off the first tackle Maitland's Brenton Horwood, standing out of the scrum dropped the pass.
A self-inflicted wound for Maitland, a reward for Cessnock's tenacity and will to win. Bring on Souths.
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