A 39-metre Nathan Cleary field goal snatched a 16-15 golden point win for Penrith against a spirited Knights side before a 26084 crowd in Newcastle.
Despite being without star playmaker Kalyn Ponga and hooker Jayden Brailey, the Knights took the match to the back-to-back premiers for the full 80 minutes but were left shattered after two late field goals by the Panthers captain.
The loss was particularly heartbreaking as Newcastle five-eighth Tyson Gamble appeared to have secured a hard fought win for the home side when he kicked a 77th minute field goal but Cleary levelled the scores to force the game to overtime.
Gamble opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he dummied and sliced between Stephen Crichton and Mitch Kenny off a flat pass from Jackson Hastings near the Penrith try-line.
Gamble gets the Knights firing
From the re-start, Dom Young allowed the kick off by Nathan Cleary to bounce in the in-goal before going dead, forcing a goal line drop out but the England winger made amends with a long range break on the next set of Newcastle possession.
Young was cut down short by Fiji international Sunia Turuva but Tyson Frizell scored from close range on the next play to put the home side ahead 8-0.
Samoa and NSW winger Brian To'o steadied the ship for the Panthers when he crossed in the 22nd minute after Dylan Edwards, Cleary and Crichton combined to create an overlap following a penalty against Dane Gagai for dissent.
To'o to the tryline
Stand-in Knights hooker Phoenix Crossland ensured a standing ovation from Newcastle fans at halftime when he won the race for his own in-goal grubber to score 10 minutes before the interval.
An in-goal fumble by Panthers forward Scott Sorensen as he raced with Frizell for a Soni Luke ensured the Knights went to the halftime break leading 14-6.
A 55th minute Cleary penalty goal after a high shot by Crossland put the premiers within range of levelling the scores and they did so when Jaeman Salmon strolled through a gap near the try-line three minutes later.
Gamble appeared set to be the home town hero when he kicked a 77th minute field goal but Cleary levelled the scores at 15-15 a minute later and the game went to extra time.
Gamble puts the Knights ahead
After missing two field goal attempts during regular time, Cleary made no mistake with his first attempt just 40 seconds into the golden point period to break the hearts of the Knights and their fans.
Match: Knights v Panthers
Round 7 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
- The Panthers made eight first half errors and completed at just 57 per cent before the interval.
- Nathan Cleary's kick-offs troubled the Knights, with Dom Young allowing one to bounce in-goal and over the dead-ball line for a goal-line drop-out, and Lachlan Miller fumbling the second-half re-start.
- Newcastle's back three of Miller, Young and winger Greg Marzhew had mixed nights, with the trio proving dangerous in attack but producing three handling errors each.
- Penrith prop Spencer Leniu appeared set to be sent to the sin-bin late in the first half for interfering with Tyson Gamble but a captain's challenge not only saved the Panthers going a man down but gave them possession.
- Newcastle centre Dane Gagai was penalised for dissent while in possession in the first half after taking umbrage with a tackle by Jarome Luai. Panthers wingers Brian To'o scored on the next set of tackles.
- Tyson Frizell appeared hard done by when he was penalised for pulling the hair of Luai in the second half as he chased down the Penrith five-eighth.
- Knights playmaker Phoenix Crossland did a good job in place of injured hooker Jayden Brailey, who ruptured his ACL last weekend, but the defensive work took its toll when Jaeman Salmon scored in the 59th minute.
- The Panthers targeted Crossland and Kurt Mann, who shared the dummy half duties. Crossland was forced to make 43 tackles, while Mann finished with a game high 47 tackles in a 57-minute stint.
- Cleary produced a towering 40-20 kick before halftime, with the Panthers playmaker kicking from his own 30-metre line.
Play of the game
It's impossible to go past Cleary's match winning field goal just 40 seconds into extra time after missing two attempts to snatch victory during regular time.
The Kangaroos halfback got himself in position 40 metres out and there were never any doubts the ball was going between the uprights.
The Iceman cometh
What they said
"We will learn from that loss. You can see that there is a group in there who are really, really disappointed and they put a hell of a lot of effort in, especially defensively. I just reckon we have been building the last four or five weeks. We don't want to let this loss or the disappointment derail that improvement,": Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
Knights: Round 7
"They were on top in that first half and they opened the door a few times in the second half but we didn't do much with it. We just kept plugging away and that is what I am most happy with, the fact we kept on coming and in the end just got there,": Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
Panthers: Round 7
The Knights are expected to welcome back captain Kalyn Ponga for the trip to North Queensland to take on his former club on Saturday night, while NSW Origin prop Jacob Saifiti returns from suspension.
Brodie Jones was ruled out of the match against Penrith at halftime with a quad injury and will be in doubt for the clash with the Cowboys.
Daniel Saifiti (shoulder) and Tyson Frizell (ankle) finished the match but both appeared to troubled by injuries.
Frizell extends the lead
The Panthers have a short turn-around before meeting South Sydney at Accor Stadium on Thursday night.
Kangaroos second-rower Liam Martin aggravated a hamstring injury but played on and is in doubt for the meeting with the Rabbitohs.