Manly Sea Eagles were made to rue a poor start as a spirited comeback proved in vain in a 16-12 home defeat to South Sydney Rabbitohs on Thursday.
The Rabbitohs, who had lost their last two matches, came storming out of the blocks with three tries inside 15 minutes at Brookvale Oval - a Cameron McInnes double and Cody Walker's score doing the damage.
But Manly, looking for a third straight NRL win, shook off their sloppy start and Dylan Walker put them on the scoreboard before half-time.
The hosts piled on the pressure in the second half and Apisai Koroisau's 59th-minute try reduced the arrears further, but they were unable to complete the turnaround.
South Sydney, who welcomed Sam Burgess back from a neck injury for his 100th NRL appearance, had their first try after just six minutes through McInnes, and the same man was in again five minutes later as he exploited some weak Manly defending.
That try, which took Rabbitohs' past 35,000 points, was soon backed up by a third as this time Cody Walker dummied the defence and waltzed over the line with ease.
But after starting slowly, it was Manly that finished the half the strongest.
Walker rolled over the line to score against his former team, and the Rabbitohs had to defend against strong pressure from the hosts before the break.
Manly remained in the ascendancy after the interval and Rabbitohs full-back Greg Inglis made a superb try saving tackle on Nate Myles, before Koroisau burst under the posts with just over 20 minutes remaining, Jamie Lyon's conversion cutting the gap to four points.
The home team battered the Rabbitohs' line in search of a potential match-winning try, but the visitors held for a firm for a victory that sends them top ahead of the rest of the weekend's action.