Halves Scott Drinkwater and Jake Clifford have clicked to spark North Queensland's 36-6 NRL win over a hapless Gold Coast Titans in Townsville in Friday night.
The Cowboys were supposed to miss captain Michael Morgan in attack, with the dominant halfback set to be sidelined for another six weeks as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
But five-eighth Drinkwater and replacement No.7 Clifford have surely eased concerns after inspiring the Cowboys' first win at their new home Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Off the back of another monster game by lock Jason Taumalolo (274m), Drinkwater constantly posed headaches while Clifford kept North Queensland's foot on the Titans' throat with his precision kicking.
"Having such a big break you are not sure how the players are going to get back into the groove so to win like that was pleasing," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"We created some nice opportunities and a lot of it came through them (halves) - there were some good signs there.
"They balanced each other out really well. When we had an opportunity the ball went to the right guy."
Winger Ben Hampton and replacement hooker Reece Robson both bagged doubles to ensure North Queensland (2-1 record) won their 10th straight game against the Titans.
Fullback Valentine Holmes had his best game since returning from a 2019 NFL sojourn, setting up three tries and running 113m in the round three clash.
It took just two games for North Queensland to taste victory at their new venue.
But the long wait for a win continues for long suffering Gold Coast fans after the Titans fell to their 14th straight loss.
Remarkably the Gold Coast's last victory was almost a year ago - a round 13 triumph over Brisbane last June.
It marked the third straight defeat for new coach Justin Holbrook in a nightmare start for the former Super League premiership winner with St Helens.
Gold Coast have conceded 106 points in their first three games under Holbrook and scored just 18.
"We've just got to play smarter. We look good in periods then we come up with something poor," Holbrook said.
"We can't sustain enough pressure, that's what we have to learn to do."
Holbrook wielded the axe before the round three clash but was forced to make more changes before kick-off.
No.1 Tyrone Roberts (ankle) and flyer Anthony Don (knee) pulled out with Jonus Pearson coming in on one wing, Brian Kelly on the other and Phillip Sami moving to fullback for Roberts.
But the new look Gold Coast had the same old problems, suffering from their own errors and poor last play options.
After leading 14-6 at halftime, the Cowboys kicked away when Robson burrowed over from dummy half with two tries in four minutes (55th, 59th) as the floodgates opened.
Summing up their game, the Gold Coast couldn't score even when Cowboys backrowers Mitch Dunn (27th) and Coen Hess (78th) were sinbinned.