Fiji born Marcelo Montoya scored a try for the Bulldogs but that was not enough as they went down to Rabbitohs 10-26 at Bankwest Stadium.
South Sydney’s big guns barely fired a shot for the first half at before Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds rallied the cavalry.
The two points will be tempered by serious concern for rising centre Braidon Burns and a feared dislocated right knee after he fell awkwardly and needed the medicab to leave the paddock in the 70th minute.
Reynolds meanwhile simply couldn’t kick one straight as 56 per cent of first half possession only amounted to an 8-6 Rabbitohs advantage.
But after the break the pint-sized half laid on one try from the boot and would’ve had another but for a wicked bounce bamboozling James Roberts.
Instead it was Walker going to the line with intent for the first time in the 58th minute, he and Cameron Murray trading roles for Walker to power over from a short ball.
That made for a 10-point ball game, not that the Bulldogs were to be daunted.
As they often do, they hung tough and hung in, twice trimming the Rabbitohs lead to within striking distance, but lacking the strike to go further.
As a result their efforts amounted to a fourth-straight loss, the last thing besieged coach Dean Pay needs with a verdict on his future still unknown.
South Sydney move back into the winners’ circle and ninth position, behind Cronulla and Wests Tigers by the smallest of points differential margins.
They made it look a formality early on.
That wasn’t the case throughout, but Alex Johnston’s third-minute try loomed ominous – the Souths speedster putting his best asset on show after being told there is no room for him at Redfern in 2021.
It was Latrell Mitchell sending him on his way with a catch and pass on the red and green side of halfway, Johnston duly leaving Dallin Watene-Zelezniak for dead as he went in, away and 60 metres for the first try.
The Rabbitohs’ left edge continued to gather steam and Damien Cook joined them as he went close to sneaking over, Souths settling instead for a 25th minute penalty goal and an 8-0 lead.
Errors undid the cardinal and myrtle while Canterbury’s halves Brandon Wakeham and Kieran Foran began to run with relish.
The latter copped a dislocated finger late in the half for his troubles.
The former put the Dogs at ease with a clever 35th-minute chip kick for Canterbury’s first points, straight into the in-goal and the arms of Marcelo Montoya.
Upon the resumption Reynolds found his range straight away, grubbering for Jaydn Su’A’s first try in Rabbitohs colours.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner gave the Bulldogs hope when he crashed over in the 54th minute.
But Walker gave Souths breathing room soon enough, while Gagai got his try in the end, snaffling an intercept as the Bulldogs pressed with one last attacking raid and running 95 metres.