Newly appointed Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has made an immediate impact, with his side stunning North Queensland 26-16 in Townsville on Saturday.

All the drama surrounding want-away half Mitchell Moses seemed a mile away, as the battling Tigers stunned the 2015 premiers, who saw superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston carried off late in the game with a leg injury.

Thurston was a notably absent from the post-match press conference and Cowboys coach Paul Green was coy on the extent of the injury to his star playmaker.

"Yeah, I'm not exactly sure and I don't want to speculate at the moment," Green said. "I think it's calf at this stage so we'll see how bad it is."

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A potential stint on the sidelines would add yet another name to the Cowboys injury list, already headlined by test and Maroons stars Matt Scott, Justin O'Neill, and experienced backs Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein.

Thurston's absence coincided with Jacob Little darting over for the match-sealing try and Parramatta-bound Moses let out an audible yell of delight, when he knocked over the conversion to ice the biggest upset of the 2017 season.

Moses looked every inch a committed Tiger, as he and his teammates celebrated wildly after the full-time siren, with the surprise result a perfect way to distract from the club refusing to immediately release him to the local rivals.

Tigers captain Aaron Woods looked a relieved man, as his side snapped a four-game losing streak and while thrilled with the result, he said the hard work would start again for the Easter Monday's clash with Parramatta.

"The last time we were up here, we got beat 68-6, so I've had a few nightmares at this joint and to have a win in this situation was really good," he said. "We've been getting hammered the last couple of weeks, but that's the rugby league world and a win shuts a lot of people up.

"We just need to keep building on this."

North Queensland got off to a horror start, when a Kyle Feldt error allowed Ava Seumanufagai to stroll over for the game's opener, and the lead was 10-0 after nine minutes, when Elijah Taylor crossed untouched down the right wing. The pain continued for the hosts, when David Nofoaluma charged over for the Tigers' third try as the out-of-sorts Cowboys were thoroughly out-enthused right across the park.

The home fans finally had something to cheer about, when $10 million man Jason Taumalolo skittled Tigers props Aaron Woods and Tim Grant to score a dominant solo try, and put his team back in to the contest.

Just as North Queensland looked to have finally woken up, the Tigers struck again, when hooker Matt McIlwrick caught the markers napping and dove over for a soft four-pointer next to the posts to hand the Tigers a shock 20-6 lead at the half.

Tearaway forward Coen Hess got the Cowboys off to a perfect start to the second half, when he pounced on an inch-perfect Thurston grubber to narrow the gap to eight points.

Tigers forward Chee-Kam bombed a certain try that would've killed the game with 11 minutes to play and the Cowboys made the visitors pay, when Hess charged over for his second try of the night.

But the Tigers held on for a much-needed victory.