Goannas coach Todd Edwards has lauded a "tenacious" display by his squad after Cessnock caused the biggest upset of the Newcastle Rugby League season.
The Coalfields club went where no one else had been in 2019, overcoming the previously undefeated leaders Western Suburbs with a 13-9 win at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
It was Cessnock's third consecutive triumph against Wests, having beaten them twice in two meetings last campaign, and now makes it three victories from their most recent four outings in this year's competition.
This result elevates the Goannas (6 points) to outright fifth spot on the overall standings after seven rounds and they still have a game in hand.
"We were really tenacious," Edwards told the Newcastle Herald.
"We spoke about it all week and the 80-minute effort we would need to beat them [Wests].
"We really respected our opponents. We had a lot of ball and they defended well.
"Our guys were just tenacious and I was really proud of them."
Goannas second-rower Reed Hugo sealed the win with a 72nd minute try in the left corner, extending the lead to five points but a narrow conversion miss left the door open for the Rosellas.
"There were some heart stopping moments for the last four or five sets," Edwards said.
Cessnock's Connor Kirkwood and Wests' Chad O'Donnell exchanged tries midway through the first half before Goannas halfback Callen Edwards slotted a field goal for a 7-6 advantage at the break.
Former NRL pair, Cessnock's Paul Carter and Wests' Pat Mata'utia, were sent to the sin-bin in the 45th minute.
Back-to-back penalty goals made it 8-7 to Wests and then 9-8 to Cessnock around the hour mark.
However, the win has "come at a cost" with Cessnock picking up at least three injuries - centre Josh Charles (broken hand), back-rower Marvin Filipo (hamstring) and fullback Harry O'Brien (shoulder) set for stints on the sidelines.
Kurri Kurri, Maitland and South Newcastle (8) remain locked together in a three-way tie of second position after recording wins on Saturday, closing the margin between them and frontrunners Wests (10) to two points.
The Bulldogs beat Lakes 28-10 at Kurri Sportsground, having gone behind twice in the opening 43 minutes and then scoring 22 unanswered points in the final half hour.
Souths won a low-scoring encounter 8-0 against Macquarie at Townson Oval, turning the tables on a loss to the same opponents at the same venue in round two.
Lakes, Central and Macquarie (4), who have now dropped three straight matches, sit on the bottom of the ladder.
Meanwhile, one decade after her last state game Kylie Hilder has been named to represent NSW at this month's State of Origin clash with Queensland.
The hooker will be joined at North Sydney Oval on June 21 by CRL Newcastle teammates Isabelle Kelly, Hannah Southwell and Holli Wheeler.
LADDER: Wests 10; Souths, Kurri, Maitland 8; Cessnock 6; Macquarie, Central, Lakes 4.