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Data gathering is a common but critical operation in many applications of wireless sensor networks. Innovative techniques that improve energy efficiency to prolong the network lifetime are highly required. Clustering is an effective topology control approach in wireless sensor networks, which can increase scalability and lifetime. These networks require robust wireless communication protocols that are energy efficient and provide low latency. In this paper, we develop and analyze an efficient cooperative transmission protocol with robust clustering (RCCT) for sensor networks that considers a fault-tolerant and energy-efficient distributed clustering with minimum overhead. RCCT distributes energy load by energy-aware member selection for cooperative data transmission. Simulation results show a better performance of RCCT as compared to the conventional protocols.