A disciplined 80 minutes from Newcastle slowed down the Panthers juggernaut but wasn't enough to stop last year's minor premiers claiming their seventh straight win of 2021.
A brilliant return from injury from fullback Dylan Edwards added another dimension to Penrith's attack to guide the home side to a 24-6 win despite a brilliant effort from Kurt Mann to keep Newcastle in the fight for almost 70 minutes.
Edwards ran for 269 metres, busted seven tackles and scored the 67th-minute try that cracked the Knights open after some resilient defence held an impressive Panthers attack at bay for long periods.
Mann created his side's only try and produced some big moments in defence but there were few avenues to breach the staunch Penrith defence with his halves partner Blake Green guilty of some poor last-play options and forced passes and star fullback Kalyn Ponga kept quiet for the first time since his belated round five return.
Nathan Cleary again controlled proceedings superbly with Jarome Luai a menace on the left edge, creating one try but causing headaches with nearly every touch.
Match: Panthers v Knights
Round 7 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary praised his side's ability to stay focused in the face of the physical Knights, who he said were doing their best to slow down the ruck to unsettle the Penrith attack.
"I was actually really happy with tonight – I thought we were on top for most of the game and their try came from nowhere really," Cleary said.
"I thought we dominated most areas. I thought the Knights did a really good job of hanging in there and disrupting us.
Sleight of hand from Luai sends Burton through a gap
"There were five tackle-one six-agains in the first half so that was clearly a tactic, the play-the-ball was so slow tonight."
Cleary said he had raised the issue of teams slowing down the Penrith ruck with the Jared Maxwell, the NRL's general manager of elite officiating.
"We're first in a lot of stats: tackle breaks, run meters, shifts, metres made yet we're ninth or 10th in play-the-balls less than four seconds, so that doesn't add up to me," Cleary said.
"I've seen it in a few other games too … I just think tonight was another level again."
The home side received a further boost when Cleary confirmed to the players after the win that his assistant Cameron Ciraldo had turned down an offer to join Cronulla and would be staying at Penrith.
There were ominous signs early as the Panthers got in range with little trouble and a Cleary grubber with Ponga in the line set up Stephen Crichton's first try of the year just five minutes in.
After some sustained pressure they crossed again through Matt Burton, who benefited from a superb no-look Luai short ball that flummoxed Enari Tuala.
Totally against the run of play, Mann shrugged through Viliame Kikau from inside his own half to send Star To'a into open pastures, with the recalled winger putting a huge fend on Edwards to get the Knights on the board at the half-hour mark.
To'a with the big don't argue on Edwards
Despite a late scare the Knights defended that 10-6 score to half-time.
A high-quality scoreless first 20 minutes of the second half was played almost entirely in Newcastle's half, but a Brian To'o double movement as close as Penrith got to scoring in a period of dominance.
They eventually added two points when the Knights fumbled a kick and Ponga played at the loose ball from an offside position.
The margin was still only six but when rookie winger Brayden Musgrove fumbled a bomb under huge pressure, Penrith scored straight from the scrum with Isaah Yeo turning the ball back inside through traffic for Edwards to scoot over.
Panthers channel 2016 Sharks with scrum move
Penrith sealed the victory with To'o's athletic dive over in the corner in the 75th minute icing the 24-6 result.
The four-pointer capped another monster game for To'o, who made a mammoth 337 metres from 28 runs and had four tackle breaks as he continues to stake his claim for a NSW Origin debut.
Acrobatics from To'o seals the deal for Panthers