St George Illawarra are poised for their best shot at a premiership since their 2010 success after easily dismantling Manly 32-8 in Wollongong.
Saturday evening's win takes the Dragons two points clear at the top of the ladder, the first time they have been first this late in a season since claiming their first title as a joint venture.
The Dragons crossed for six tries in the comprehensive display, as Ben Hunt set up two and their defence held strong throughout.
Crucially, all six State of Origin stars taking part coming through the game unscathed, with Sea Eagle Tom Trbojevic causing the only scare when he reached out to attempt to score in the second half.
He stayed down clutching at his right shoulder but played on and looked pain-free by fulltime.
The Dragons one win in front of South Sydney and Penrith heading into the representative round, after which all three teams will feel the pinch of Origin and Test football.
It will also give coach Paul McGregor the chance to nurse his team through the busy fortnight that follows, including a short turnaround before facing Parramatta next round and another game without their Origin stars.
"We've got a purpose in this squad of what we want to do, and that's to give ourselves every chance at the back end of the year to finish as high as possible," McGregor said.
"We're in that tough period, we're two games into it and we've won both."
After Manly fought hard to keep themselves in the match at 10-8 down just before halftime, Tariq Sims provided the crucial blow when he beat a number of defenders to cross and give the Dragons' an eight-point buffer.
The lead quickly extended to 14 just after the break when Hunt grubbered out of dummy-half for a chasing Gareth Widdop to score following back-to-back Manly errors.
"The three minutes before halftime and the little patch at the start of the second half - there is 12 points there," Manly coach Trent Barrett said.
"I thought our first half was particularly good and we put ourselves in the contest. To let that one in was a try we could've stopped."
James Graham also scored a try to put the match beyond doubt for the Dragons after a 50-metre Jack de Belin break. That four-pointer means every Saints starting player has crossed this year for a try.
Manly's woes continued in their fourth-straight loss, with centre Moses Suli suffering a sternum injury.
Rookie back Tom Wright provided one of their few highlights with his first NRL try in just his second match when he scorched past Widdop and Matt Dufty.
The Sea Eagles also used both Matt Wright and Trent Hodkinson at hooker, as Barrett vowed to continue to fight to get youngster Manase Fainu cleared by the NRL to make his debut.