The Raiders controlled much of the first half and led 14-2 before the Cowboys scored in the 36th minute to get within eight points.
But on the stroke of half time, the home side struck back when first grade debutante Nathan Smith scored his second try. At the break, the Raiders held a handy 20-8 lead.
The Cowboys scored first in the second half. But with half back Mark McLinden directing proceedings, the Raiders replied with back-to-back tries. Leading 32-14 and with 25 minutes to go, Canberra looked to have the match in the bag.
But the Cowboys never gave up. With Paul Rauhihi charging up the middle of the ruck and Josh Hannay finding room out wide, the Cowboys came storming back and found themselves within four points in the last 10 minutes.
The Raiders however, were able to hold out, defending their line desperately. The match coming down a final play when Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen kicked ahead, only to eventually find Raiders' forward Ruben Wiki, who cleaned up the loose ball over the dead ball line.
The win sees the Raiders firm up their position in the top eight, moving up to 20 competition points. For the Cowboys, the loss sees them in danger of losing touch as they remain on 17 points, on the outside and looking in.
RAIDERS 32 Tries: Smith 2, Schifcofske, Croker, McLinden Goals: Gafa 5/5, Schifcofske 1/1 defeated COWBOYS 28 Tries: Rauhihi, M Bowen, Myles, Norton, Hannay Goals: Hannay 4/6
Canberra Stadium Referee: Tim Mander Video Referee: Chris Ward Touch Judges: Russell Turner, Jason Weinstein
By the clock: 0 min: Both teams getting ready to come on the field with a spot in the top eight up for grabs.
3 min: PENALTY GOAL - Cowboys. Josh Hannay posts the first points. Follows bust from Brendon Bowen to put the Cowboys within range. Raiders penalised for offside. Cowboys 2-0
6 min: TRY - Raiders. Nathan Smith scores in the corner. His first touch of the ball in debut in first grade. Follows back-to-back penalties with the Raiders remaining on the attack. Conversion from Matthew Gafa is beautifully struck and straight over the black dot. Raiders 6-2
9 min: TRY - Raiders. Clinton Schifcofske scores after Jason Croker makes a bust up the middle of the park. Conversion Gafa right in front. Raiders 12-2
15 min: NEWS - Both sides finding space up the middle of the ruck with line breaks going both ways. Possession: Raiders 55%
23 min: PENALTY GOAL - Raiders. Matthew Gafa right in fron from 30m out. Cowboys penalised for holding down. Raiders 14-2
30 min: NEWS - Cowboys under some pressure with the Raiders gaining momentum and field position, but unable to come up with any extra points. Possession: Raiders 55%
36 min: TRY - Cowboys. Paul Rauhihi scores next to posts after backing up Aaron Payne who ran from 30m out after taking advantage of some lazy marker defence from the Raiders. Conversion Hannay. Raiders 14-8
40 min: TRY - Raiders. Winger Nathan Smith gets a double and improves his position to score next to the sticks. Follows clever play with Adam Mogg using Ruben Wiki as a decoy to create the opening. Conversion Gafa. Raiders 20-8
HALF TIME: Raiders mostly in charge of proceedings but started to lose their way a little late in the half. A try right on half time has put them back in the driver's seat and may have broken the North Queenslander's hearts.
Stats half time: Completions: Raiders 14/19 - Cowboys 15/21 Tackles: Cowboys 138-123 Mistackles: Cowboys 15-12 Offloads: Cowboys 12-5 Line breaks: Raiders 5-2 Penalties: Raiders 4-3 Score: Raiders 20-8
Second half underway...
45 min: TRY - Cowboys. Matthew Bowen scores a sensational team try out wide. Follows a bust from Aaron Payne who finds big Paul Rauhihi in support. Conversion is nailed by Hannay. Raiders 20-14
52 min: TRY - Raiders. Jason Croker dives on the football to score his 111th career try. Follows a grubber kick from Luke Davico. Conversion Gafa from almost in front. Raiders 26-14
55 min: TRY - Raiders. Mark McLinden [pictured], who is having a top match, breaks through from 20m out and stretches out to score 10m in from touch. Conversion taken by Schifcofske as Gafa is off the field with stomach problems. Conversion is spot on and Raiders are well in control. Raiders 32-14
61 min: TRY - Cowboys. David Myles scores in the corner. Follows big bust down the flank from Josh Hannay who easily gets around Joel Monaghan and then slips a classy pass to Myles on the outside. Conversion attempt Hannay is unsuccessful. Raiders 32-18
66 min: TRY - Cowboys. Travis Norton barges over 15m in from touch. Follows a Raiders handling error in the previous ruck. The Cowboys are back in the match. Conversion attempt Hannay is unsuccessful. Raiders 32-22
70 min: TRY - Cowboys. Hannay puts on a huge step and scores next to posts. Raiders under all sorts of pressure as the Cowboys are playing for their season. Conversion Hannay. Raiders 32-28
75 min: NEWS - more ball for the Cowboys. Possession: Cowboys 52%
78 min: NEWS - Raiders forced into a line drop out and the Cowboys will get another shot at the line.
79 min: NEWS - Raiders come up with the loose ball an should hang on.
FULL TIME: The Raiders get out of jail after a very entertaining come back from the Cowboys.
Stats full time: Completions: Raiders 27/37 - Cowboys 32/42 Tackles: Raiders 267-257 Mistackles: Raiders 34-22 Offloads: Cowboys 20-13 Line breaks: Cowboys 7-6 Penalties: Cowboys 7-6 Score: Raiders 32-28
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M McLinden (Raiders) 2 - P Rauhihi (Cowboys) 1 - J Hannay (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------