The Newcastle Knights snapped a seven-game losing streak with an entertaining 36-28 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
Led by a double to centre Dane Gagai, the Knights put on a show with the ball in hand to record their third win for the 2014 season.
While Gagai was a standout with his impressive individual display, he was well supported by skipper Kurt Gidley, fullback Darius Boyd and winger Aku Uate.
Back-rower Beau Scott and Boyd both backed up strongly from last week's Origin clash in Sydney, while forwards Robbie Rochow and Jeremy Smith worked tirelessly through the middle.
The only negative for the men in red and blue was an injury to hooker Adam Clydsdale, who was assisted off the field late in the match with a knee injury.
The Knights will look to build some momentum when they take on the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday from 3pm.
Newcastle made a number of changes prior to kick-off, including Korbin Sims replacing David Fa’alogo in the starting side, who was ruled out on Sunday due to a back injury.
North Queensland had the dream start to the match when winger Antonio Winterstein opened the scoring after just two minutes.
Winterstein pounced on a drop ball from Newcastle fullback Boyd to score.
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston added the extras to give the away side an early 6-0 lead.
North Queensland looked dangerous in attack in the opening exchanges, but the men in red and blue held on through their defence.
This allowed the Knights to cross after 14 minutes via centre Joey Leilua, who finished off a slick backline movement.
Gidley missed the conversion from the sideline, but the home side were back in the match trailing 6-4 with 25 minutes left in the first half.
Newcastle started to build momentum on the back of strong charges from veterans Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith, while Jarrod Mullen’s kicking game forced a number of repeat sets.
This gave the Knights plenty of quality possession to hit to the lead after 22 minutes through Boyd.
The fullback picked off a great pass from fellow Origin representative Scott to race away and score under the posts.
Gidley converted to give the Knights a narrow 10-6 advantage with 15 minutes left in the opening half.
North Queensland looked certain to score after 28 minutes via replacement forward Jason Taumalolo, but some last-ditch defence by Gidley denied a certain try.
The Knights then received an invaluable chance to score after 35 minutes following a Cowboys’ mistake.
Gidley made the most of the team’s opportunity to score a scintillating solo try.
The skipper converted his own try to stretch the Knights’ lead out to 16-6 with three minutes remaining in the half.
Newcastle flyer Aku Uate had a great chance to add to the Knights' advantage on the stroke of halftime when he ran 65-metres to score, but he was ruled to have knocked the ball on.
Uate may not have added to his impressive try-scoring haul, but the the side in red and blue still went to the break with a handy 16-6 lead.
Newcastle's dressing room was full of positive talk at halftime and the good vibes continued just 10 minutes into the second half when centre Gagai scored an impressive individual try.
The young centre beat four North Queensland defenders to in a slashing 40-metre run to the line.
Gidley added the extras to give the Knights a comfortable 22-6 lead with 27 minutes left on the clock.
The Knights were full of confidence and added to their advantage just three minutes later following a four-pointer to Tyrone Roberts.
Roberts finished off a brilliant team try, which started with a pass from back-rower Robbie Rochow before Boyd backed up and offloaded for his diminutive half to score.
Gidley was once again faultless with the boot to give the Knights a comfortable 28-6 advantage with 22 minutes remaining.
The Cowboys refused to give in though and crossed after 62 minutes via bustling back-rower Tariq Sims. Thurston missed the conversion to ensure the Knights maintained an 18-point buffer with 16 minutes left.
North Queensland's momentum was quickly taken away when Gagai crossed for his second try. Gidley failed to convert, but the men in red and blue were in control leading 32-10 with 12 minutes left in the match.
The Cowboys wouldn't go away though and crossed again minutes later via utility Robert Lui. Thurston added the extras to make the score 32-16.
Once again though, the Cowboys couldn't back it up and the Knights made them pay with a try to Uate after 72 minutes.
Gidley's conversion hit the post and was waved away, but the home side was in control leading 36-16 with six minutes left.
North Queensland scored two late tries in the dying stages, but in the end it counted for little as the Knights charged to a much needed win.
Newcastle Knights 36 (T: Gagai 2, Leilua, Boyd, Gidley, Roberts, Uate, G: Gidley 4/6)
North Queensland Cowboys 28 (T: Lui 2, Winterstein, T Sims, Rona, G: Thurston 4/5)