Lachlan Fitzgibbon delivered a strong performance on Friday night but it wasn't enough for the nib Newcastle Knights to put away North Queensland, as the Knights go down 20-18.
The Knights came firing out of the gates when Fitzgibbon went charging through a gap off a short pass from Jack Cogger.
Losing Connor Watson during the week due to a groin injury, Cogger joined Mitchell Pearce in the halves and wasted little time asserting himself.
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Returning to face his former Club for the first time, Kalyn Ponga threatened the defensive line early in the piece, but the Knights were unable to turn their chance into points when a pass off the back of a Ponga line-break was spilled by Mitch Barnett.
But a short ball from Danny Levi was on the mark with Aiden Guerra strolling over the line.
Up 12-0 after 12 minutes, back-to-back sets saw the Cowboys chipping away at the Knights line but great scramble from Sione Mata'utia and Ponga denied Justin O'Neill in the corner.
Danny Levi was sin binned for repeat penalties 18 minutes into the first half and O'Neill crossed a minute later for the home sides first try.
With six points the difference, a penalty in front of the sticks saw Ken Sio extend the lead by eight.
Fitzgibbon scored his second six minutes from the break when Cogger hit him short at the line.
The Cowboys welcomed back representative duo Matt Scott and Jordan McLean but found themselves down by 12 at halftime.
The second stanza saw Scott Bolton steam across the line but was denied by a try-saving tackle by Fitzgibbon.
Sadly for the Knights, a repeat set finished in a try to Coen Hess.
A missed conversion by Johnathan Thurston kept the score 18-10 in favour of the Knights.
The Cowboys backed up the try when Thurston supported a break from O'Neill and pounced on a grubber kick from his winger.
Thurston then converted his try to make it two-points the difference.
Repeated sets from Cowboys' errors saw the Knights maintain possession on the Cowboys line, however couldn't capitalise and a dropped ball saw North Queensland retake possession.
A charge in goal from Ross saw the Knights nearly score with just over five minutes remaining, however the Cowboys knocked the ball into touch and served up a repeat set for the Knights.
A late try from Cooper through Thurston and Martin saw the Cowboys retake the lead, however Thurston couldn't convert.
North Queensland defeat the nib Newcastle Knights 20-18.