Josh Hannay has urged North Queensland to prove they've turned a corner and not go back to producing soft football as their NRL season enters dire straits.
Friday night's loss to Manly meant they stayed 11th, but with just three wins on the board and likely needing victories in seven of their last nine to make the finals.
Injury ravaged since Michael Morgan required shoulder surgery during the lockdown, North Queensland have at least shown signs of improvement in a tough two weeks.
They pushed Penrith to the end in last week's final game before Paul Green walked as coach, and were again gutsy against the Sea Eagles in Townsville.
But with Canberra awaiting next Saturday, interim coach Hannay was adamant the most important thing for North Queensland was not falling back into old habits.
"The ability to absorb pressure and go down the other end and put pressure on the opposition (is where we have lacked), Hannay said.
"We've done a little bit of that the past two weeks.
"It's imperative we don't got backward from this in terms of that effort and attitude.
"Because that is something we have done as a club for the past few years: Show glimpses of good footy and then a month of soft footy."
The Cowboys did show plenty of fight on Friday night.
Mitchell Dunn's effort to hold up Jack Gosiewsky stopped Manly going up 18-0, and moments later Kyle Feldt was able to make the half-time score 12-6.
Feldt produced a similar effort to almost stop Daly Cherry-Evans from scoring in the season half.
But time and time again their hands or ill-discipline with slow rucks in defence hurt them down.
Never was the more evident than when Coen Hess bombed a certain try chasing through on a Daejarn Asi grubber, which would have made it 18-12 with 14 minutes to go.
Instead, Manly scored from the next set and the game was gone.
"When that happened I said to Aaron Payne, that is going to hurt us. Because I just know how the pendulum swings," Hannay said.
"But I can cop those (errors).
"We've had periods and moments this year where what's let us down has been a soft underbelly and what I would call an attitude problem.
"I was really encouraged I didn't see that out there tonight.
"We need to move forwards and not go backwards from here. Because the past two weeks have been a step in the right direction."