It was not pretty, but the Panthers have claimed their fourth-straight victory after outlasting the Bulldogs 16-8 in a dour affair in front of over 8,000 fans at Pepper Stadium.
Nathan Cleary opened the scoring in Thursday night's clash with a conservative penalty goal in the fifth minute to give Penrith an early 2-0 lead. It looked a smart play as both sides struggled to get going in the early stages of the clash. Then, Peter Wallace found the first try of the night when Dylan Edwards kicked towards the posts and Wallace was there to clean up the scraps after Aiden Tolman failed to bat the ball dead.
The Bulldogs hit back in the 27th minute when a brilliant long ball from Moses Mbye gave the enthusiastic Josh Reynolds enough time and space to step through the Penrith line and plant the ball down. Both sides appeared evenly matched for the majority of the first half and the score line would reflect that when Kerrod Holland kicked a late penalty goal to lock things up at the break.
Not much changed in the second half, with neither side able to break the dead lock early. However, an error from Holland in the 55th minute gave the Panthers a chance to post their second try of the night - which they did. An early ball from Cleary saw Edwards give Waqa Blake the time to find space out wide and link with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who would cross in the corner to see Penrith regain the lead.
Penrith continued to struggle to land the killer blow before a long pass from May saw Peachey grubber through and clean up a Will Hopoate mistake to send Penrith's lead out to eight.
In the end, in what was a dour affair, the Panthers did enough to hold out a desperate Bulldogs outfit 16-8 to keep their finals hopes alive. Both sides, however, could not escape Thursday night's game without issues, with Sam Kasiano and Leilani Latu being forced off the field with sternum and jaw injuries respectively.
Next week, the Panthers have to wait until Sunday afternoon to continue their surge towards the finals when they take on the Tigers at Pepper Stadium. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs respond with only pride to play for as they battle the Eels at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.