Led by the attacking brilliance of centre Sione Mata'utia, the Newcastle Knights maintained their unbeaten run in 2014 with a hard fought 40-22 victory over the Penrith Panthers at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
In a highly entertaining match, the Knights showed enormous courage to come back from an early 12-0 deficit to run away with the game in the second half.
Mata'utia was the star for the home side with a double, while replacement forward Marvin Tauhini also grabbed two tries on debut.
Fullback Jake Mamo also impressed, as did lock Pride-Petterson Robati and winger Bryce Donovan.
The Knights will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Manly at Brookvale Oval next Monday.
Newcastle made a number of positional changes prior to the match.
Fullback Jake Mamo returned to the NYC ranks at fullback, shifting Jacob Gagai back to five-eighth.
Pride Petterson-Robati replaced NRL debutant Joe Tapine in the back-row, while Marvin Tauhini was named on a four-man bench.
Penrith had the dream start to the match when they opened the scoring after just seven minutes via five-eighth Corey Harawira.
The playmaker beat three defenders to barge over and score.
Harawira converted his own try from in front to give the Panthers an early 6-0 advantage.
The Knights came up with a number of basic errors in the opening exchanges.
This enabled Penrith to control possession and cross again through fullback Logan Geyer.
The son of Panthers legend Mark Geyer put in a grubber for himself to score under the uprights.
Harawira added the extras from close range to give the away side a comfortable 12-0 buffer.
Newcastle looked down and out, but they hit back after 20 minutes when centre Sione Mata’utia barged over in the eastern corner.
Mata’utia carried three defenders over the line to score.
Bryce Donovan missed the conversion, but the home side were back in the match trailing 12-4.
Penrith kicked the ball out on the full on the following set, allowing the Knights to cross for their second try in four minutes via centre Chance Peni.
Donovan added the extras to reduce the deficit to 12-10 with 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
Newcastle took the lead just four minutes later when lock Pride Petterson-Robati scored out wide.
Donovan missed the conversion, but it was the Knights with a 14-12 lead with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Penrith regained the lead on the stroke of halftime via replacement forward Fairouz Elkander.
Harawira added the extras to give the Panthers an 18-14 lead at the break.
Newcastle had the perfect start to the second half when Mata'utia barged over for his second try.
Donovan converted from the sideline to give the Knights a 20-18 lead with 35 minutes left in the match.
Mata'utia was in the action again in the next set with a surging run down the sideline, before offloading for Donovan to race 30 metres and score.
Donovan converted his own try to give the home side a 26-18 advantage with 32 minutes remaining.
Penrith refused to go away though, with fullback Geyer bagging his second try after 55 minutes.
The Knights retained a slender 26-22 lead after Harawira missed the sideline conversion.
Mata'utia looked to have scored in the 63rd minute, but had the ball dislodged over the try line.
Newcastle retained possession though and added to their lead via replacement forward Marvin Tauhini.
Donovan added the extras to give the home side a 32-22 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the match.
The Knights extended their lead to 34-22 in the 73rd minute following a penalty goal to Donovan. Both teams had players sent to the sin-bin in the closing stages of the match. Josh Birch for the Knights and Sam Scarlett for the Panthers.
Newcastle scored again on the full-time siren, with Tauhini barged over for his second try.
Donovan added the extras to round out a 40-22 victory to remain on top of the Holden Cup ladder after nine rounds.
Knights: Mamo, Donovan, Mata’utia, Peni, Birch, Gagai, Feeney, King, Levi, Yates, Petterson-Robati, Pondekas, Boyce. Interchange: De Saxe, Smith, Fitzgibbon, Tauhini.
Panthers: Geyer, Jay, Naden, Silipa, Aiono, Harawira, Scarlett, Saunders, Katoa, Hall, Pelasasa, Attwood, Cowhan. Interchange: Grant, Lupi, Tangitau, Elkander, Freeman.