A nerveless Brooks, who has been in an out of the side all season, potted a field goal with just two minutes left to engineer a 29-28 win, sparing Brisbane’s blushes in the process. Had the Bulldogs won, the Broncos would have been condemned to last spot.
The Tigers remain two wins adrift of the Rabbitohs and Sharks with six rounds remaining, but every match left is against a team above them on the ladder, including the Roosters, Panthers and Storm.
The Tigers blasted to a 22-6 lead during a manic seven-try, near-point-a-minute first half, but almost buckled with their season hinging on the line as Marshall-King rose from the bench to set up the Bulldogs’ two second-half tries.
Both times he boldly ran the ball on the final tackle, engineering a rare Aiden Tolman try and then popping a miraculous pass for Kerrod Holland’s go-ahead four-pointer.
Leilua’s swift reply and Moses Mbye’s sideline conversion levelled the scores with seven minutes left before Brooks stepped up to the plate for his most important contribution of the season, calmly slotting a 30-metre one-pointer.
The Bulldogs will be sweating on the match-review committee clearing Dylan Napa after the prop was placed on report for a first-half tackle in which he was accused of leading with the head.
The former Roosters firebrand was criticised for the technique in 2018 when he knocked out then Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough.
The first half featured 38 points, perhaps an exhibit in why one team will do well to avoid the wooden spoon and the other will do very well to sneak into the finals.
Even if the Tigers do not play beyond the regular season, David Nofoaluma might. The Tigers winger can’t be that far off Brad Fittler’s State of Origin radar, and the NSW coach couldn’t have got a closer look at the one consistent attacking spark all year.
He burst downfield to help set up Mbye’s opener a few plays later, stepped inside to set up one of Luke Garner’s two first-half tries and then scored his own on the end of a quick hands from Marshall and Leilua.
But even with a 16-point lead at one stage, the Tigers trudged to the sheds only 22-16 in front after Marcelo Montoya and debutant Matt Doorey crossed in the five minutes before the break.
WESTS TIGERS 29 (Luke Garner 2, Moses Mbye, David Nofoaluma, Joey Leilua tries; Mbye 4 goals, Luke Brooks field goal) defeated CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS 28 (Nick Meaney, Marcelo Montoya, Matt Doorey, Aiden Tolman, Kerrod Holland tries; Kerrod Holland 4 goals) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin. Crowd: 3756.
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Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.