Brisbane looked on course to repeat their victory over the Sea Eagles 25 years ago when they entered the premiership but, after leading 14-6 - the same halftime scoreline as 1988 - they were swamped by a Sea Eagles attack led magnificently by halfback Daley Cherry-Evans.
It was Cherry-Evans's solo try, busting through four Brisbane defenders in the 48th minute, which not only cut the margin to 14-12 but provided the visitors with the momentum to grab the lead five minutes later when centre Steve Matai crossed for his second try.
Jamie Lyon's conversion put Manly in front 16-14 which they extended to 22-14 after Brisbane centre Jack Reed spilled the ball in a Cherry-Evans tackle 15 metres out from his own tryline.
Prop Brent Kite grabbed to loose ball and shovelled it onto winger David Williams for the easiest of tries.
Two magnificent passes by Broncos centre Justin Hodges guided Brisbane to their halftime lead in front of 31,139 fans.
Hodges served up a superb pass in a tackle for back-rower Matt Gillett to score in the 19th minute after recruit Scott Prince had knocked over a simple penalty several minutes earlier.
Gillett powered onto the pass, almost knocking Manly fullback Brett Stewart into the grandstand as he bolted across the tryline.
Matai cut the margin to 8-6, crossing wide out in the left corner after a sweeping shift instigated by Cherry-Evans.
Brisbane's second try was a classic, reviving memories of the club's glory days.
With members of the 1988 side, including captain Wally Lewis in the stands, Brisbane turned on the razzle dazzle with Prince and finally Hodges producing perfect flick passes for winger Lachlan Maranta to score for the 14-6 lead.
How the fans would have loved to see Lewis or Alfie Langer jump out of the stands as Brisbane's attack was shut down by Manly with a glut of second-half possession.
A clearly disappointed Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said he felt his players had "rolled over" early in the second half, after resuming with a 14-6 lead.
"They jumped us with energy and got us by the throat," he said, referring to Manly's seven-minute spree.
"Three tries ... and that was it.
"When you give up a 14-6 lead and, all of a sudden you're down 22-14, psychologically you pay a price for that."
Manly coach Geoff Toovey said his side was "defensively superb" in the second half and paid tribute to the toughness of representative back-rower Anthony Watmough who went into the clash after having several painkilling injections.
Watmough failed to finish the game after the needles wore off but, by the time he left the field in the second half, the Sea Eagles had the game in the bag.
"His ribs were pretty sore, especially after the injections wore off. I thought he was outstanding and played tough - that's the kind of player he is," said Toovey.