The Cronulla Sharks have gone down 21-12 to the Sydney Roosters in their qualifying final at Allianz Stadium, setting up a sudden-death showdown with Penrith next week.
Cronulla twice held the lead before the Roosters surged home to claim the win in front of 24,588 boisterous fans. However, Shane Flanagan's men will rue a myriad of missed opportunities.
It was nonetheless a valiant effort from the Sharks tonight, playing 68 minutes with only three men on the bench after co-captain Wade Graham exited the arena with a possible ruptured ACL.
Scans will determine the full extent of the injury and whether Graham is any hope of lacing the boots again in 2018.
Cronulla capitalised on an early period of pressure inside the Roosters' 20-metre zone to post the first try of the game through winger Sosaia Feki in the fifth minute.
Feki showed great awareness and balance to pivot and touch down in the left corner following some smooth passing from Graham and centre Ricky Leutele.
Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes couldn't add the extras and the score remained 4-0.
The Roosters returned fire in quick time as halfback Cooper Cronk cleaned up a deflection from his own grubber kick and dived under the posts.
In a double blow for the Sharks, Graham's wretched run with injury continued when he sustained a right knee problem trying stop Cronk scoring.
While Graham was assisted from the field by medicos, Latrell Mitchell potted the straightforward conversion to give Sydney a 6-4 lead.
Cronulla levelled the match with a Holmes penalty goal in the 24th minute.
The Sharks looked certain to notch a second try when a slick backline shift left Feki unmarked, but he couldn't handle an erratic pass from Leutele and the chance went begging.
Sydney had the final say of the first half after a succession of penalties, edging ahead via centre Joseph Manu who completed a fluent left-to-right swing.
Mitchell missed the conversion but the Roosters were 10-6 leaders at the break.
The home side's advantage was short-lived however, with the Sharks nabbing a try five minutes into the second stanza.
On the trail of strong charges from props Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods, halfback Chad Townsend placed a beautiful grubber that was grounded perfectly by winger Edrick Lee.
Holmes was on target from the touchline and Cronulla became the frontrunners.
Keeping to the trend, the lead switched hands again. Roosters centre Mitchell fell across the stripe after winger Daniel Tupou flew high to tap back a Cronk bomb.
The NSW Origin representative couldn't convert his own try, leaving Sydney clinging to a two-point buffer.
Tupou scored a four-pointer of his own five minutes later to give the Roosters breathing room, though Mitchell again shanked the goal attempt.
The Sharks almost responded when Holmes burst into the clear off a classy inside ball from Matt Moylan but a wayward pass from the No.1 was turfed by Josh Dugan.
Veteran second-rower Luke Lewis came within centimetres of scoring as he careered onto a grubber in the in-goal, only for Mitchell to pull off an incredible tackle to jolt the ball loose at the last possible second.
Cronk booted a field goal shortly after to push the Roosters in front by seven, then Mitchell added a penalty to put the Sharks to sleep