COWBOYS star Jason Taumalolo says the injury-stricken team has run out of second chances, conceding Friday's clash with Wests Tigers at Campbelltown is do-or-die.
North Queensland coach Paul Green will be praying some of his experienced leaders will be fit with Gavin Cooper (calf), Antonio Winterstein (hamstring) and Lachlan Coote (ankle) all some chance of returning.
Losses by ninth-placed St George Illawarra and tenth-placed St George Illawarra over the weekend ensured the Cowboys (eighth) retained some breathing space with two rounds remaining.
But given the Dragons are just two points behind with a superior for and against, the Cowboys will likely have to win at least one more game to ensure finals football.
Given their final round is a tough home assignment against the surging Brisbane Broncos, the Tigers clash is a virtual mini final.
The Cowboys have lost four straight in a single season for the first time since mid-2013 and time is running out to ward off the rivals eyeing off their spot in the eight.
"Definitely (it's do or die), a few teams are hunting us but I'm still confident the boys can do their best and stay up," Taumalolo said.
"They (Tigers) have still got a lot to play for, they know we're in the hunt for the finals so they'll be out to change that and come up with an upset.
"Although we don't have a proper team on the field we're starting to click and it's not too many weeks left now to get it right.
"We have to get it right sooner rather than later and hopefully take it into finals."
Minus a number of first choice forwards upfront the Cowboys middle third struggled to contain Cronulla's star-studded pack in Saturday's 26-16 home loss.
The Cowboys allowed 17 offloads and it's an issue they must fix against a Tigers outfit who are playing carefree, adventurous football.
"They poked their nose through a couple of times and it gave them momentum going down the field," Taumalolo said.
"We couldn't wrap up the ball then which led to us being back down on our line.
"We've got a lot to work on if we want to stay in the eight. It's safe to say for a week we're still in the finals."