Cronulla has dropped out of the NRL’s top four for the first time in almost three months after being flogged 35-18 by Manly on Sunday.
The defending premiers turned in their worst performance of the year at Southern Cross Group Stadium, completing at just 65 per cent as they found themselves behind from the second minute.
They also likely lost hooker Jayden Brailey for at least the next two months with a broken jaw after he collided with Dylan Walker’s elbow when trying to make a tackle.
It comes as a massive blow to the Sharks, given James Segeyaro (arm) is still at least another game away, while play-making utility Daniel Mortimer will leave for the English Super League this week.
The Sharks will likely be forced to slot Fa’amanu Brown into dummy-half against the Sydney Roosters next week, while Joseph Paulo could also fill in there off the bench.
But coach Shane Flanagan said he hoped Sunday’s loss would come as a wake-up call for the Sharks after they had been forced to come from behind in their six previous games, but won five of them.
“That first 20 minutes was basically game over,” he said.
“I hope (it’s the wake-up call). We’ve got the Roosters next week.
“It’s a disappointing night all round.”
The win moved Manly into the top four for the first time since 2014.
St George Illawarra are sixth behind the Sharks, after they came from behind with four unanswered tries in the second half to sink Newcastle 32-28 on Sunday.
NSW duo Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell were both inspirational in the fightback.
Meanwhile the Sydney Roosters narrowed the margin at the top to Melbourne to one win, after they came from 12 points down with 10 minutes go to seal a memorable golden-point win over a depleted Melbourne 25-24 at Adelaide Oval.
Mitchell Pearce sunk the match-winning field goal – the third time this season he has won the game in the clutch – and helped ease the pain of NSW’s game two loss just three days earlier.
Brisbane are third after back-rower Matt Gillett, also backing up from Origin II, scored two second-half tries to upset Canberra 30-20 with the Raiders once again displaying an inability to put away the game in the second half.
North Queensland were also forced to do it the hard way to go seventh, shaking off the loss of Johnathan Thurston to a season-ending shoulder injury with Ethan Lowe booting an 80th-minute sideline conversion to sink eighth-placed Penrith 14-12.
On Friday, Jarryd Hayne gave every indication that Campbelltown Stadium was still very much his home, scoring two second-half tries and setting up another in the Gold Coast’s 26-14 win.
After kicking the winning field goal against the Tigers in a match last year he memorably raised his arms and declared “this is my house” at the same ground.
And the Warriors continued their Origin-period surge with a 21-14 win over Canterbury, who were without Brett Morris and had Josh Jackson and David Klemmer backing up less than 48 hours after Origin.