The Panthers' barren run at AAMI Park continued as they slipped to a 24-6 defeat against Melbourne Storm on Saturday.
The Panthers never really gained a foothold in the game, with a combination of handling errors and Storm penalties forcing them to spend considerable energy in defence.
It was a tough initiation for 18-year-old Nathan Cleary, who made his NRL debut in the halves for the Panthers alongside Jamie Soward. New recruit Chris Grevsmuhl made his club debut off the bench and in doing so became Panther 561.
The Panthers opened the scoring through Josh Mansour in the 7th minute after Matt Moylan managed to step out of a tackle. Quick hands on the outside put the NSW Origin winger over in the corner. Soward's sideline conversion gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
However the home side hit back with 24 unanswered points as Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith worked off the back of the work of their big men up front.
Storm forwards Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris were immense as they helped Melbourne to their sixth-straight win of the season.
The Panthers had all the early field position and looked on top of the Storm, but that all changed in the 18th minute.
Cooper Cronk played a short ball to Jesse Bromwich, which saw the Kiwis captain power his way over the line for Melbourne's first try.
The Storm cut the margin to two points in what was shaping up as a dour affair, but it would be a piece of brilliance from the Melbourne skipper that would bring the game to life.
Cameron Smith, sporting the unusual No.20 jersey, put in a fantastic 40/20 to give the Storm quality field position, something they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the half.
The home side would hit the lead only three minutes later, as Kevin Proctor barged his way over the line after another assist from Cronk.
Cronk had his third assist of the half just five minutes later as he put a low kick into the corner for Ryan Morgan to run on to and give the Storm a 16-6 lead at half-time.
The Panthers came out after the break with purpose and found themselves over the line within minutes, but the play was called back as the final pass to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was deemed forward.
Only minutes later, Watene-Zelezniak was again centimetres away from scoring in the corner if not for a last-ditch tackle from Marika Koroibete.
Jamie Soward jumped on a loose ball after a second Vunivalu error in as many minutes and shifted it wide for the Panthers winger in open space.
Koroibete met Watene-Zelezniak with a fierce bump in the corner to keep the Panthers out.
Koroibete was later taken from the field and did not return due to concussion.
Both sides had chances to open the second-half scoring inside the opening 20 minutes, but it would take a penalty to the Storm to break the deadlock.
Blake Green was taken high by Isaah Yeo under the posts with 15 minutes to go, and Smith made the Panthers pay, pushing the margin out to two converted tries.
The second half had only garnered two points up until the final two minutes, but what followed was easily the play of the night.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona broke consecutive tackles and pushed past two more Panthers before finding Cronk with a flick pass in the middle of the field as he ran under the posts to cap off a fantastic night for the halfback.