Pirates captain Conrad Starr scored two second-half tries to propel the reigning premiers to a come-from-behind 28-23 win over Gunnedah at Ken Chillingworth Oval on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon.
The inspirational No.8's second try was the match-sealer - the close-range, gritty effort coming in the 69th minute and snapping a two-game losing run.
Pirates lost close contests to the two top sides, Walcha and Moree, in their two previous matches.
Gunnedah - who beat Pirates 36-24 in round four - led 15-14 at halftime after scoring three tries to two.
Both sides scored four tries for the match, but Gunnedah missed all four conversion attempts.
Pirates moved past the Red Devils into fourth place on the ladder, with Starr saying the win was vital for the side's momentum in the run to the finals.
He said: "It was a really important game for us to come away with the victory.
"It's been a couple of tough weeks. So it's good to grind out a tough victory, which is what you want going forward in the business end of the season.
"It was scrappy but we ground it out, which was the most important thing."
Pirates opened the scoring in the seventh minute when No.15 Sam Collett showed good hustle to cross from close to Gunnedah's tryline.
But then Gunnedah scored three unanswered tries.
The first was a long-range effort by No.11 Oscar Hunt and the second and third were close-range efforts by No.8 Iliesa Navatu and No.6 Ray Spradbrow.
Pirates hit back in the 39th minute when No.4 Jack Shelton crashed over.
Starr scored both Pirates' five-pointers after the break, while the Red Devils' sole try of the second half was posted by hooker Brad Hobden.
Starr said Pirates knew they would have to play for 80 minutes to beat Gunnedah.
"They got us in the first round, so it was important that we hit back and got them in the second round ... I'm pretty sure we'll probably see them again at some stage," he said.
Pirates 28 (Conrad Starr 2, Sam Collett, Jack Shelton tries; Andrew Mepham 3 con, Simon Trappel con) d Gunnedah 23 (Oscar Hunt, Iliesa Navatu, Ray Spradbrow, Brad Hobden tries; Oscar Hunt pen goal)