Anthony Griffin has hailed St George Illawarra's new-found steel after the Dragons burst Wests Tigers' bubble with a scrappy 12-6 NRL win at WIN Stadium.
A near full house of fans in Wollongong had to wait 57 minutes on Sunday before seeing a try.
But solo efforts from Ben Hunt and lively dummy-half Jayden Sullivan were enough to secure the Dragons the precious two competition points.
It wasn't pretty but Griffin was nevertheless delighted after his side held the Tigers out for 73 minutes in another gritty defensive display following their 14-12 Anzac Day win over the Sydney Roosters.
The Dragons possessed the worst defence in the competition through the opening six rounds but have conceded only 18 points in their past two games in a timely fix ahead of next week's trip to Melbourne to face the rampant Storm.
"It's a credit to them, the way they've been able to defend the last couple of weeks," Griffin said.
"We learnt some really hard lessons against Parramatta and Cronulla and those sides.
"Defence is always an attitude and it's a connection. They key showing up for each other tonight.
"It's just an attitude that we've been able to build."
The Tigers had been chasing three straight wins for the first time in four years - and for the first time under coach Michael Maguire - but looked a shadow of the side that upset heavyweights Parramatta and South Sydney.
Instead it was the Dragons who completed a rare hat-trick of victories to climb to the cusp of the top eight.
The hard-earned victory was also St George Illawarra's first over the Tigers in Wollongong in 20 years.
They did it without Jack Bird, who was ruled out before kick-off with an arm injury, leaving Talatau Amone to start at five-eighth.
The Tigers, though, put the Dragons through an anxious finish after Luke Brooks crossed with six minutes remaining to cut the home side's lead to six points.
A 26th-minute Jackson Hastings penalty goal was the only scoring play of an error-riddled first half.
Kelma Tuilagi looked to have off bagged a nice try off a Brooks cross-field kick a minute earlier only for the bunker to find the back-rower knocked on while trying to ground the ball.
The Tigers settled for a 2-0 lead after Zac Lomax was pinged for tackling Tuilagi in the air but curiously turned down two subsequent chances to double their advantage with penalties in front of the sticks.
The second half was more entertaining but neither side's performance would be a concern to the premiership big guns Penrith and the Storm, who Griffin acknowledged as the form team in 2022.
"It will be good to get down there and test ourselves," the Dragons coach said.
"For me, they're the best attacking team in the competition."