The Warriors are within touching distance of their first NRL finals series in seven years after they held out a St George Illawarra comeback to win 18-12 at WIN Stadium.
Labelled "soft" by coach Stephen Kearney last week against Gold Coast, the Warriors were anything but during a desperate second half on Saturday.
After the Warriors led 18-0 at the break courtesy of three tries while Dragons fullback Matt Dufty was sin-binned, Dragons Cameron McInnes and Luciano Leilua shortened the gap to six just 10 minutes after the break.
But with just 38 per cent of the ball and a 6-1 penalty count against them after halftime, the Warriors made 43 more tackles than their opponents to claim the win.
The victory marked their first in Wollongong since 1996 and moved them back to four points ahead of the ninth-placed Wests Tigers with four rounds left.
"For the boys to defend the way they did and to find a way to come out on top I was really pleased with them," Kearney said.
"I made a harsh read on their performance last week and this week they were really tough out there and found a way to get the result."
The Dragons have lost four of their past five games and could fall back level on points with fifth and sixth-placed Penrith and Cronulla if they win on Sunday.
Making matters worse was a leg injury for NSW prop Paul Vaughan, who left the ground in a moon boot after he heard something pop in his knee or ankle early.
No doubt this has all sparked fears of a third late-season fade-out in four years.
"I don't want to revisit. Our vision is what we need to do, not revision," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"However, everyone is going to talk about it again because we lost."
Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck defined his team's desperation as he ran 222m and pulled off a crucial try-saving tackle on Tim Lafai with minutes to go in the first half.
It was crucial given Lafai was putting the ball down to make it 12-6 when it was stripped from his grasp. The visitors then scored during the next set to lead by 18 points.
"It was a huge play and there's been a number of times this year Roger has come up with a play like that," Kearney said.
"This week I could see it in his body language he was determined to lead the way. His carries today, that defensive effort on Tim Lafai. That epitomises what Roger is all about."
Earlier, Tuivasa Sheck was also responsible for Dufty's sin-binning after the Dragons fullback pushed him off the ball while he chased through on a grubber.
Centre Solomone Kata bagged a double in the 10 minutes that followed. Hooker Issac Luke scored the other try.