Knights forward Mitch Barnett.

Newcastle will be "paying the piper" for their inability to close out clutch games if they once again watch the finals from the sidelines according to coach Nathan Brown.

The Knights' 20-14 loss to Parramatta will leave Brown's side two wins outside the top eight by the end of round 21, leaving them odds-on to miss the finals again for a sixth straight season.

The desperate defeat to the Eels was a stark improvement on last week's dire 30-6 thumping from Manly.

But it still amounted to the Knights' eighth loss of 2019 by eight points or less, a record that has sunk them to 12th on the ladder rather than challenging for a top-four spot if even just half those games had gone the other way.

"When you lose a big chunk of close games, at some stage you pay the piper don't you?" Brown said after the tense loss to Parramatta.

"Whether it stops you finishing in the top four, stops you finishing in the top eight, you pay the price for it.

"We've had some really, really strong wins against some really good sides.

"But again in tight situations, I think at home, we've lost six by an average of 3.8 points. We're dealing with fine margins.

"But when it keeps happening there's a reason it keeps happening, it's not bad luck that’s for sure."

Two tries from kicks saw Newcastle take an unlikely 14-8 lead after halftime, but Parramatta eventually hauled them in for their 12th win of the season.

Once again star fullback Kalyn Ponga was the focal point in the Knights attack, with Mitchell Pearce and Mason Lino unable to inflict damage on a gritty Eels defence.

With the game on the line Newcastle came up with untimely errors at crucial times, a facet Brown acknowledged in addressing his team's poor clutch records.

But he denied too much of the Knights attack centres on Ponga, pointing to previous wins over Brisbane and the Rabbitohs without the Queensland No.1.

"When we were in the groove there without Kalyn we won a few games and scored plenty of points," Brown said.

"Most sides have got key players and your key players, a lot of your attack does revolve around them.

"That's what every side does. That's why those players in those positions are probably so sought after.

"Our [issue] is not a one-player thing. It's a group thing. As a group we've had lots of close games where we've certainly got the defence and the attitude right in the close ones at key times, but we haven't got the offence part right."