Yellow cards to forwards Taniela Tupou and debutant Josh Nasser either side of halftime briefly left the Reds with just 13 men as the Lions peppered their line looking to extend a 17-13 lead on Sunday morning.
But somehow the Reds held them out, breaking down the hosts’ scrum and maul before probing No.9 Tate McDermott popped out of the crowd to score under the posts and give them an unlikely lead with 15 minutes to play.
That came after impressive No.8 Harry Wilson was denied a try after inconclusive replays ensured the unlucky no-try call stood, despite a string of ruck infringements in the lead-up.
Queensland still had their chances to steal a win at altitude, a cruel bounce from a Bryce Hegarty grubber kick spoiling a likely Henry Speight try before the winger fumbled twice in the closing stages.
Lions winger Tyrone Green was earlier denied a hat-trick when Speight’s desperate tackle dragged one of his feet over the sideline.
Jock Campbell scored the Reds’ first try, finishing a long-range effort he started by trapping a grubbered kick with his feet as the visitors shocked the small Ellis Park crowd.
Their defence was superb with the Reds’ scrum again forcing penalties and only a bizarre uncontested maul from a lineout handing man of the match Marnus Schoeman a try on the stroke of halftime.
The Reds, who enjoyed just 37 per cent of the ball and made 123 tackles to the Lions’ 64, weathered the storm in the second half but ultimately fell short for the second straight week.
Queensland have shown plenty of positive signs but are now 0-2 after coughing up a 10-point halftime lead against the Brumbies in round one.
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