By Adam Lucius
Finally, Manly are through to the second week of a Shute Shield finals series after defeating Northern Suburbs 34-23 in the first elimination semi on Saturday.
After five years of heartache and disappointment after falling at the first hurdle, the Marlins came from 14-0 down to overpower Norths and earn a shot at Sydney Uni for a right to enter the 2011 grand final.
The early portents were not good at a cold and windy Coogee Oval.
Norths came out full of intensity and Manly could not go with them early.
The Shoremen went bang, bang to score two converted tries and lead 14-0 after as many minutes.
But as possession finally started to flow Manly's way, so did the points.
Two Ben Seymour tries cut Norths' lead and even though the Shoremen added a penalty, it was the Marlins finishing the stronger.
A try right to Chris Cottee on half-time - scored while prop Dane Maraki was in the sin bin - gave Manly the lead for the first time.
The move was started deep in Norths' territory, with Andrew Smith, Michael Hooper and Willie Ripia handling before skipper Cottee crossed.
The Marlins controlled the game from that point on, adding second half tries to Cadeyrn Neville and Anthony Hegarty while keeping the persistent red and blacks at arm's length.
"The first 20 minutes they wanted it more than we did but it's reassuring that we can compose ourselves and get going again," said lock Neville, who was outstanding once again .
"Hopefully now that we've won in the first week that is in one ghost laid to rest."
Fullback Ben Seymour added: "This has been our bogey game the past couple of years so it's nice to get through it.
"But there is a lot to improve on.
"Norths came at us pretty hard and we didn't defend that well early.
"We put ourselves under pressure but the thing is we knew we could come back strongly."
Coach Tim Lane, who gave his side an old-fashioned bake after they clocked off the previous week, was full of pride following the drought-breaking win.
"It was very sweet," he declared.
"We didn't have the ball early but once we got our hands on the ball we put a couple on them.
"It was always going to come. I think five tries to two was a fair reflection of things."
Now, it's onto six-time premiers Sydney Uni at TG Millner next Sunday.
Manly beat the Students 25-19 back in round 10 before going down 32-14 in the return bout a fortnight ago.
Asked how it felt to be just 80 minutes away from a grand final berth - the club's first in 14 years - Neville responded: "I don't think we can think about it like that.
"We need to be thinking about trying to win the game.
"We exposed some chinks in their armour a couple of weeks ago but you've got to do it for 80 minutes against Uni."
Lane has maintained all along that Manly is capable of matching it with this much-vaunted Uni side.
"They will be hard to beat but I don't think they are unbeatable," he said.
"We showed two weeks ago we were capable of beating them.
"We're where we want to be. We've got a big challenge next week but we've got to go out with a good attitude and get the little things right."