Canterbury proved quickest to the trigger in an NRL shootout at Allianz Stadium with Ben Barba the ultimate gunslinger in the 32-20 NRL win over Wests Tigers on Friday night.
Barba was the star of the show as Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds scored doubles, the two sides trading try for try over an enthralling second stanza which left the Tigers in danger of dropping out of the top eight.
They will do so if the Warriors beat Gold Coast on Sunday after Barba set up three tries and scored another to show he would not have been out of place had Queensland coach Mal Meninga given him a start in Wednesday night's decider.
Performances like this and it can only be a matter of time before he dons the maroon jersey after he burst open a game which the Tigers led 10-4 at halftime.
Seven minutes after the restart it was 16-10 to the Bulldogs.
The first four-pointer came when Barba made an incisive run to set up Reynolds' first for Canterbury's league-leading 13th try from inside their own half, then a delightful ball put Morris over for his second.
Chris Lawrence then answered the challenge for the Tigers before Barba scored his 13th try of the season to again give his side the advantage.
The Tigers came again as Masada Iosefa dummied his way over and Benji Marshall's sideline conversion locked it up at 20-all with 16 minutes to go before Krisnan Inu and then Reynolds again put paid to the Tigers' valiant charge.
Despite losing Lote Tuqiri to a suspected broken arm after just eight minutes thanks to some friendly fire when sandwiched by Adam Blair, the Tigers took a deserved 10-4 lead to break.
Both of their tries came courtesy of Marshall kicks, the second just before the break an extraordinary banana kick which Beau Ryan reefed out of the hands of Josh Jackson to touch down under the posts.
There was nothing as spectacular about Marshall's first try assist, Joel Reddy the only one to leap as a bemused defence looked on.
The Bulldogs barely gave themselves a chance to score as they coughed up plenty of ball inside their own half, with their only foray into enemy territory a sign of things to come as Morris crashed over four defenders to score out wide.
"He continues to come up with those plays when we need them," Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said of Barba.
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis was just as effusive about his fleet-footed No.1's reliability.
"The most positive and pleasing thing - everyone talks about his special moments - but it's just his overall game and consistency in it," said Ennis.
"There are some good fullbacks around and to have his name tossed up with those guys is a real credit to him."
Barba himself elected to share the credit - Hasler included.
"I'm just doing my job - what's winning us games is everyone doing their job and it's coming together as a team," said Barba.
"When they brought Dessie we knew what he demanded was a lot of hard work.
"It was a bit of a fright for everyone."
Tigers coach Tim Sheens praised his side's resilience to get back in the contest.
"We really lost some momentum coming back out (after halftime) and didn't start well," said Sheens.
"We regained ourselves, the game was there for us but we weren't good enough in the end."