The trusty boot of Johnathan Thurston proved to be decisive yet again as North Queensland Cowboys beat Brisbane Broncos in an epic tussle.
Johnathan Thurston scored a late drop-goal in his 250th appearance for North Queensland Cowboys to complete another pulsating comeback as Brisbane Broncos suffered a dramatic 19-18 NRL defeat on Friday.
Cowboys skipper Thurston inspired his side to victory in the NRL Grand Final against the Broncos last year, landing a drop-goal in extra time to secure a 17-16 victory.
And Thurston inflicted more misery on Wayne Bennett's side at 1300SMILES Stadium in round 11, showing nerves of steel once again to send over the winning kick just after taking a heavy hit from Josh McGuire five minutes from time.
The Broncos claimed a 21-20 golden-point win over their rivals back in March and looked set to see the champions off again when they led 18-6 in the second half, but Paul Green's men refused to accept defeat in another thriller.
Matt Scott scored his first try of the year after taking a pass from Jake Granville to put the Cowboys in front 12 minutes in, with Thurston converting.
The Broncos took a 12-6 lead into the break following a double from Matt Gillett and stretched their advantage to 18-6 courtesy of Jordan Kahu's try in the corner just after the restart and a penalty from the full-back, which took his tally to 10 points.
North Queensland showed the hallmark of champions with another fightback, Lachlan Coote touching down following a kick and chase before Justin O'Neill crossed and Thurston added the extras on both occasions to level.
Anthony Milford scored the winning drop-goal in the previous meeting between the two sides, but dropped the ball when he shaped up for another strike at goal and was off target again after Thurston had made no mistake to move the Cowboys level with the Broncos at the summit.