St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says the Dragons' NRL finals series has already begun.
The Dragons revived their playoff hopes with a desperately needed 42-16 victory on Saturday afternoon over embattled Gold Coast.
With their season on the line, the Dragons piled on seven tries to three to snap a two-match losing run and stay just one win outside the top eight with three home-and-away games remaining.
Try-scoring doubles from winger Jason Nightingale, playmaker Kurt Mann and impressive hooker Cameron McInnes and a further four-pointer to Joel Thompson earned the one-time competition leaders just their third win in nine starts.
"Our finals started today. They had to win three out of their last four and that was one today and next week's another test," McGregor said.
"We understand the challenge that's in front of us."
Despite the Dragons living to fight another day, McGregor wasn't impressed with his side leaking three soft second-half tries after taking a commanding 22-0 lead into the break.
"I thought our first half was probably our best of the year, to be honest, defensively and attack-wise," he said.
"We were quite comfortable going in with a nice lead and I thought we started the second half aggressively.
"We didn't have much possession the first six to eight sets and we tried to attack our way out of it instead of getting a nice comfortable grind through our defence."
But McGregor knows his troops can't afford any such lapses on Friday night in a daunting clash with the second-placed Broncos in Brisbane.
"Our D's going to have to be good because we've seen the last two weeks Brisbane put on - what, 80 points? - on two sides," he said.
The Dragons temporarily climbed above Penrith into eighth spot on points differential, before the Panthers restored order with a hard-earned 24-16 win on Saturday night over North Queensland.
The Dragons face the Panthers in a potentially decisive round-25 showdown before finishing the regular season with another must-win contest against Canterbury in three weeks at ANZ Stadium.
Delighted to be still in the finals mix, McGregor singled out McInnes for special praise for helping keep the Dragons' season alive.
The 23-year-old two-try hero has played every minute of every game in 2017.
"He's been a big part of our year," the coach said.
"It's been a long year for him. This is the first time in his career that he's played every game, an 80-minute game at nine - but nothing seems to worry him.
"He just gets on with it each week; turns up to training, works as hard as anyone else there, stays behind and does extras all the time and he'll do nothing different this week.
"But it's important to us because an 80-minute hooker these days means you can swing your interchange in the middle or have a utility player on the bench."