The Newcastle Knights moved into top spot in the competition on Voice for Mining Day at Hunter Stadium, coming out 26-14 victors over the Penrith Panthers.
In what was the Knights' fourth win from four games in 2015, Chris Houston was a standout, scoring a try and racking up an impressive 53 tackles.
The men in hi-viz orange came into the game without Robbie Rochow and James McManus, while the Panthers were without James Segeyaro and Isaac John.
As a result Joseph Tapine came onto the bench despite playing 60 minutes in NSW Cup half an hour beforehand, Sione Mata'utia started on the left wing and utility Tyler Randell retained his place on the bench.
The Knights got on the scoreboard first, Houston scoring near the uprights on the back of a strong attacking set.
Tyrone Roberts nailed the straight-forward conversion, giving the Knights a 6-0 lead with nine minutes played.
The Knights continued to threaten, Akuila Uate making 20 metres down the right side only to lose the ball in the tackle.
Jarrod Mullen made a similar move down the other flank three minutes later and earned his side two penalties in quick succession.
The Knights seized the opportunity their pivot had given them and scored through Adam Clydsdale, the young hooker scooting over from dummy-half beneath the uprights.
Roberts again kicked the conversion, the Knights now leading 12-0 after 17 minutes.
Things only went from bad to worse for the Panthers as their kick-off went out on the full, giving the home side a restart on the half-way line.
It was captain Kurt Gidley that made the Panthers pay this time, powering through a challenge from Peter Wallace to score on the left side.
Roberts was again spot-on with his kick, giving the Knights an 18-0 lead with 20 minutes played.
The Panthers tried to mount an attack of their own on the left side, Jamal Idris and Josh Mansour combining well.
On the first attempt Uate and Dane Gagai repelled them well, but two minutes later the Panthers shifted wide again and Mansour put the ball down in the corner with ease.
Matt Moylan's conversion from the sideline ricocheted off a post, leaving the score at 18-4 with 14 minutes left to play in the first half.
Momentum had shifted the way of the Panthers now and they continued to exploit their left side, Idris providing several useful offloads in one set to push his team up the field.
Mansour looked close to scoring his second of the afternoon, but was shut down well by Uate and Gagai.
The Panthers were desperately close again with five minutes left on the clock, Idris batting the ball back to Bryce Cartwright who then fed halves partner Wallace through a gaping hole.
Wallace managed to get the ball over the line but the video referee ruled a double movement.
The Panthers continued to probe the Knights' defence but the men in red and blue held on well, going into the sheds at half-time with their 18-4 lead intact.
The start of the second half was a slow-burner compared to the first, both teams finishing their sets in the middle of the field and kicking long.
It was the Panthers that managed to make the first concerted attack in the 47th minute, livewire Idris busting through only to be held up over the line.
The Knights slowly yet surely turned the momentum of the game around, forcing their way up the field on the back of a penalty for Uate to score his 99th try for the Knights.
Roberts continued his strong conversion record, boosting the Knights lead to 24-4 with twenty-five minutes to play.
The Panthers were next to score, Moylan receiving the ball from a scrum ten metres out to dart through a gap and cross over.
Moylan was unable to add the extras to his own try, leaving the score at 24-8 with thirteen minutes to play.
Clydsdale was forced from the field in the next set due to a head knock, Randell moving in to the hooker role.
The Knights didn't miss a beat, racing back up the field and almost scoring via a Roberts grubber.
It was the Panthers that scored next though, Dean Whare racing through to score. Moylan was on target this time, the score 24-14 with eight minutes left on the clock.
There were some nerves in the crowd as the Panthers pressed for another try but the Knights continued to prove resilient when pegged back against their own line.
When the full-time siren sounded the score was 26-14 courtesy of a late Roberts penalty goal, the Knights four wins from four games in 2015.
Knights 26 (T: Houston, Clydsdale, Gidley, Uate, G: Roberts 4/4, PG Roberts 1/1)
Panthers 14 (T: Mansour, Moylan, Whare; G: Moylan 1/3)
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