Winless Titans buried at the Burrow
South Sydney's classy playmakers handled Gold Coast sole possession of last place on the NRL ladder despite a bold challenge to Wayne Bennett's heavyweights at ANZ Stadium.
Gold Coast were edged out 28-20 despite a rousing hand from two-try centre Brian Kelly and a committed shift by the Titans forwards.
Gold Coast trailed 24-8 with 22 minutes remaining, but two tries from kicks by halfback Ryley Jacks, who emerged as a steadier influence in the second half, surprised the Rabbitohs.
Canterbury's surprise win over Wests Tigers earlier in the day leaves Gold Coast the only team to have lost all three games this year.
Souths joined Melbourne as one of the two undefeated teams with a hat-trick of wins to start Bennett's first season.
Gold Coast ultimately paid for a lack of organisation late in tackle counts while Ash Taylor (quad) and Tyrone Roberts (Achilles tendon) are still injured.
Rabbitohs halves Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker have played 235 NRL games between them, compared to 45 experienced by yesterday's Titans halves, AJ Brimson and Jacks.
Reynolds had one try assist and Walker two.
By the completion of the first set after they had grabbed 6-0 lead, Souths had amassed 221 kick metres, to Gold Coast's 10.
Titans coach Garth Brennan had challenged his players last week to examine their belief level following the least productive attacking output, six points, by a team in their first two rounds in 19 years.
A robust Titans had scant reward for their persistent efforts in a first half after which they trailed 18-8 and were only that close due to winger Dale Copley's 39th minute intercept try from a pass by Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook.
After scoring six points in two rounds, the fewest by any team at that stage of a season, Gold Coast notched four tries, including two from Kelly in a determined 50th NRL game.
By halftime, a winger, Dale Copley, had the most kicks by a Titan, with three.
Jacks finished with 260 kick metres from 10 kicks, but Reynolds, who suffered a minor leg injury early in the second, had 536m from 18 kicks.
Gold Coast responded with a try of their own, by Kelly, to an acrobatic put-down from Souths winger Campbell Graham to put the home side ahead 24-8.
Graham touched down a chip kick from Walker in a bare few centimetres of available real estate in the in-goal.
The Titans closed to a four-point deficit when Kelly came down with a Jacks bomb and from his desperate inside ball, cult hero winger Anthony Don pilfered possession from Souths forward
Former Test prop Shannon Boyd responded to being put on the bench by having the most run metres of any Titans forward in the first half, 80m from seven runs.
Jai Arrow finished with 139m from 14 runs for Gold Coast and Boyd 117m from 11 carries.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE CLASH
1. Not a winner to be seen among the three Queensland clubs in round 3. Next week, the Broncos play the Roosters away, North Queensland host Canberra and the Titans travel to Auckland with hopes stirred by their resistance against South Sydney.
2. The NRL bunker official Ben Galea delivered a vote for common sense which he did not take a try from Gold Coast in the 39th minute. Titan Keegan Hipgrave did catch Rabbitohs passer Damien Cook late - but not high - and it would have been a real call in favour of a glamour team had the try by Titans winger Dale Copley, who intercepted Cook's pass, been disallowed by Galea.
3. New Rabbitoh, ex-Cowboy Ethan Lowe, scored his first try in the red-and-green as he crossed for an 18-4 lead. It might not have been awarded last year, as Titan Jai Arrow had done well to wrestle him upon impact with the ground. Galea ruled Lowe had placed it on the tryline, opting not to overrule the call from the field.
4. Titans centre Tyrone Peachey, a NSW Origin player last year, had an unhappy night with his handling. A handling error from a pass he wasn't expecting turned the ball over with four minutes remaining. Twice in the first half he passed the ball behind his winger Dale Copley.
5. Phillip Sami didn't play one minute against Cronulla last week, but was brought on with five minutes remaining, replacing workhorse Jai Arrow as an outside back. Some coaches seem satisfied with playing with 16 players if that's the way injuries in the game pan out.
South Sydney 28 (C Graham 2, C Allan, E Lowe tries; A Reynolds 6 goals) d Gold Coast 20 (B Kelly 2, D Copley, A Don tries; M Gordon 2 goals).