A dominant display from North Queensland halfback Michael Morgan has helped his side to victory over Canberra, leaving the Raiders' NRL season on life support.
In freezing conditions at GIO Stadium on Saturday night, the Cowboys scored a 31-18 victory, with Morgan scoring a try-scoring double and setting up two more.
Morgan and five-eighth Te Maire Martin, who also grabbed a double, were superb in their first game together, in a promising sign of what the new halves combination can offer after Johnathan Thurston's season-ending shoulder injury.
North Queensland coach Paul Green said Morgan had done no harm to his chances of starting for Queensland in the State of Origin decider.
"He was dominant. We need him to be too given JT's out for the season, obviously," Green said.
"He's really embraced that role."
Star forward Jason Taumaololo put in a strong shift running for 177m and former Raider Shaun Fensom ran for 176 for the Cowboys after starting on the bench.
Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead's try opened the scoring then the Cowboys hit back through Martin after Morgan dished off a superb offload to allow him to score a try after 13 minutes.
A conversion and penalty goal put the visitors in front then Antonio Winterstein scored to extend the lead to six with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Fullback Lachlan Coote slotted a field goal just before half-time to give the Cowboys a 13-6 lead.
Joe Tapine's second-half try was cancelled out by a brilliant Morgan try, with Lowe's conversion taking the score to 19-12.
After Morgan made it a double three minutes later, teenage Raider Nick Cotric gave his side some hope with a dazzling long-range individual try before Martin wrapped the game up on his Cowboys debut.
Canberra remain three games outside the eight with a tough run home starting with next Friday night's match against St George Illawarra.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said his side lacked professionalism with the football and were poor in the second half.
"I'm not going to hide away from any of the tough questions. Of course it's going to be hard to make the semi-finals from where we are," Stuart said.
In a disastrous night for Canberra, skipper Jarrod Croker failed a concussion test after coming from the field in the first half and was also nursing a knee injury after two heavy contacts from Justin O'Neill.
Test prop Shannon Boyd might come under scrutiny from the match review panel for a possible shoulder charge, as could Joey Leilua, who was sin-binned late in the game for striking, an action Stuart described as stupid.