A coat of paint proved the difference as a last-gasp Dan Biggar drop goal came back off the post, ensuring the Dragons extended their winning run against the Ospreys with a one point victory at Rodney Parade.
It was an agonising finish to a game that had ebbed and flowed, with the second half in particular proving a nailbiting affair, the Ospreys ultimately having to settle for a losing bonus point – their first PRO12 bonus point of the season.
A penalty against former Wales lock Robert Sidoli for holding on allowed Matthew Morgan an early attempt on goal but his kick from 42m out was always drifting off target.
At the other end, home pressure off a scrum after Joe Bearman had knocked on a Jason Tovey up and under eventually resulted in a penalty for not rolling away and the Dragons number 10 made no mistake, giving his team the lead in the ninth minute.
Minutes later Ian Evans found himself in trouble for taking out scrum-half Wayne Evans at a ruck, leaving referee James Jones with little option other than to show the lock a yellow card. Tovey was left with a simple looking kick in a central position to double the Dragons lead but surprisingly he was off target. However, he made amends in the 15th minute, making a kick from some 15m further out look easy to take the score to 6-0.
Neither side had really shown much of an attacking threat, but as the midway point of the first half approached the Dragons were able to make good ground, Aled Brew and Will Harries combining well and taking their team 50m upfield before Ashley Beck was able to put in a good tackle to halt the attack.
Having survived Evans’ sinbinning with no further damage to the scoreboard, the Ospreys were able to get their first points, from their first real incursion into the opposition 22, Morgan with a simple penalty after the Dragons were penalised for crossing as they looked to get the ball away from the back of a retreating scrum.
From a slow start the game was building some momentum with space starting to appear across the field as play became more broken, and a penalty against Dragons second row Adam Jones for not releasing after he had halted a rampaging run from namesake Ryan allowed Morgan to square things six minutes from the break.
The Dragons enjoyed a spell of pressure after being awarded a free-kick from the restart, Rhys Webb pinged for dummying a pass at the back of a ruck. A Brew run threatened to pierce the Ospreys defence but the visitors held firm, Tovey missing with a drop goal attempt.
The Dragons were reduced to 14 shortly before half-time, Tonderai Chavhanga yellowed for a deliberate knock-on, and he was joined in the sinbin a minute later by Tom Smith. The flanker was judged to have killed the ball deliberately as the Ospreys looked to scramble back in defence after a powerful Toby Faletau run had taken the home team to the Ospreys 22, Tovey punishing them with his third successful penalty of the first half.
HALF-TIME: NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 9 OSPREYS 6
With the wind and rain at the Ospreys back at the restart, Barry Davies tried an early pop, his drop goal from halfway seemingly dropping under the crossbar a metre out, but the decision was referred to the TMO by James Jones to be sure.
Another strong Faletau run saw him carrying it from one 22 to the other before Hanno Dirksen was able to haul him down.
Good work by Morgan to carry under pressure from a number of Dragons sparked the Ospreys into life, Ashley Beck going through a gap before offloading to Tom Isaacs who was brought down close to the touchline. A Dragons player was penalised for going off his feet at the ruck, allowing Morgan to level things once again.
Not for the first time, Brew was guilty of knocking on, this time as he looked to barge his way through close to the Ospreys line from the restart.
However the Dragons did better just a minute later though, scoring the first try of the night through full back Martyn Thomas. Quick hands from Faletau had almost freed the recently returned Chavhanga, but after the Ospreys had snuffed out that threat the ball was quickly moved right, Will Harries drawing the tackle before giving the scoring pass to Thomas who stepped in off the touchline to beat his man and score. Tovey missed the conversion, leaving the hosts with a five point lead.
They doubled their lead four minutes later with a try out of nothing from Lewis Robling. The Ospreys were in possession on halfway, looking to work their way upfield, when a loose pass from Morgan was easily read by the young Dragons centre who was left with a simple run-in under the posts, Tovey converting.
The Ospreys reduced the deficit minutes later, Morgan’s fourth penalty of the evening bringing them back to within nine points.
A promising Ospreys move that saw Dirksen, Barry Davies and replacement George Stowers carry well eventually came to nothing when the Samoan back-rower found himself isolated and guilty of holding on in the Dragons 22.
The visitors were ringing the changes, making full use of a strong bench, and Biggar ignored the barracking of the home crowd to slot over his first penalty in the 65th minute to reduce the deficit further.
Stowers then received a warning after a high tackle on Chavhanga, James Jones keeping his cards in his pocket despite the expected calls from the home crowd for the Osprey to be sent to the sidelines.
From the resulting penalty lineout the Dragons patiently worked a series of pick and go’s, moving the ball infield for Tovey to try a drop goal effort that was wide of the mark.
With just six points separating the teams as the clock moved into the final 10 minutes it was delicately poised, but the Ospreys managed to get the next crucial score with a length of the field try from Tommy Bowe, the Irish man going over in the corner with his first touch.
Kahn Fotuali’i was the catalyst, Beck and Isaacs both carried well, and with the crowd screaming for a forward pass, Isaacs found Biggar who kept the ball moving, his pass releasing the supporting Bowe who crossed in the corner. With the home crowd howling their disapproval of the score Biggar was off target with the conversion attempt, leaving the Ospreys trailing by a solitary point.
At the click ticked on, the Dragons were able to set up camp deep in Ospreys territory but indiscipline allowed the big boot of Barry Davies to put the visitors back up the other end. Time was up as the penalty lineout allowed the Ospreys to play for field position in midfield, Biggar setting himself up for a drop goal attempt. He struck it well, but agonisingly for the Ospreys it struck the inside of the upright and rebounded away from goal allowing the Dragons to put the ball dead and celebrate the tightest of wins.