With scores locked 12-12 at the end of a draining 80 minutes, a Manly mistake in the first set of golden point gave Ilias his chance and he did not disappoint.
After absorbing plenty of early pressure the Sea Eagles found space on the left side but Campbell Graham muscled up in defence to take Reuben Garrick into touch before Manly's Brad Parker returned the favour on Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson.
In the 13th minute of the match the crowd rose to their feet for a minute of applause in honour of Rabbitohs legend John Sattler, who passed away this week at the age of 80.
The Rabbitohs opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Cody Walker produced a miraculous put-down inches from the dead ball line after chasing a Damien Cook grubber. Latrell Mitchell converted for 6-0.
A mistake by Jacob Host on the first set after points gave Manly a chance to hit back and it was Haumole Olakau'atu flying high to pull down a Daly Cherry-Evans kick with one hand and touching down to make it 6-6.
After having a try to Tom Trbojevic denied on a tight forward pass call the Sea Eagles then got across the line in the 35th minute but Tolu Koula spilled the ball in a last-ditch tackle by Isaiah Tass.
In the shadows of half-time Cherry-Evans intercepted a Cameron Murray pass on his own side of halfway and went the distance to give the Sea Eagles a 12-6 lead at the break.
Some slick passing by Cameron Murray and Lachlan Ilias gave Walker some space in the 50th minute and he dragged Parker over the line with him to get the Rabbitohs back within two points.
The Sea Eagles then took control of field position and forced Souths to come off their own line for several sets before a mistake by Christian Tuipulotu gave the Rabbitohs a sniff and a high tackle penalty gave Mitchell the chance to tie it up at 12-12.
With 50 seconds to play Mitchell had a shot at field goal but he hit it poorly and Manly worked their way down field for Cherry-Evans to have a shot and his kick was charged down and the match headed to golden point.
A dropped ball by Josh Aloiai in Manly's first set in golden point handed Souths a golden opportunity and Ilias stood tall with the first field goal of his career to hand the Rabbitohs a 13-12 win against the same club Sattler had played in the 1970 grand final when he defied a broken jaw to lead his team to the premiership.
- Manly back-rower Haumole Olakau'atu went on report in the 39th minute for tripping.
- Souths five-eighth Cody Walker has now scored 13 doubles in his career.
- The first dropout of the night came in the 56th minute when a Lachlan Ilias kicked sat down in the in-goal and Tom Trbojevic was forced to knock it dead.
- The Sea Eagles finished with 36 tackle breaks to the Rabbitohs' 19.
- Manly lost their captain's challenge with eight minutes to go on a Brad Parker knock-on call.
- Tom Trbojevic was back to his dynamic best for Manly with 201 metres from 25 runs and three tackle breaks.
- Ben Lovett took the field in the 63rd minute for his NRL debut for the Bunnies and came up with 15 tackles and three runs in 21 minutes of game time.
- The Rabbitohs lost their captain's challenge in the 63rd minute when Cameron Murray was pinged for ruck interference and his challenge was unsuccessful.
- Cameron Murray and Damien Cook made 106 tackles between them for Souths while Jake Trbojevic peeled off 50 tackles for Manly.
- Kaeon Koloamatangi was enormous for Souths with 179 metres from 18 runs while Tom Burgess (158 metres) also stood tall.
Play of the Game
Cody Walker's instinctive brilliance was on show in 23rd minute when he refused to give up on the chase of a Damien Cook grubber and was rewarded with a try. With Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans shielding the ball over the dead ball line it seemed a dropout was coming but the mercurial Walker got around DCE and lunged at the ball and touched it down inches inside the stripe.
What They Said
"Looking up at the scoreboard, 13 points, that was John Sattler's number, and to have his family here today was special. The tribute has been fantastic the whole week. I just thought at times tonight we really didn't deserve to lose that match so I'm glad we got the two points. To hold our nerve through the middle third [with so many guys out] was huge. I had a good conversation with Kaeon [Koloamatangi] earlier in the week [about playing in the middle] and I was so proud of the way his response. He just said 'whatever you need me to do, I'll do it'. We haven't been far off and tonight we got the reward for the work we've put in." - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou
"What we wanted to do was recognise the occasion with regards to John Sattler's passing. One of the things we spoke about as a group was the way we respect John Sattler and his legacy to South Sydney and the game was to bring a really strong effort and a strong performance and I thought everyone saw that. Both teams were outstanding defensively, to have a 13-12 score a couple of weeks into the season when both teams have a lot of threats, I thought both teams did a quality job defensively." - Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold
The Rabbitohs host the Storm in a huge clash at Accor Stadium in Round 5 while the Sea Eagles take their home game to Mudgee to face the Newcastle Knights.
Story first published on NRL.com