Four players were sin-binned late in the second half as the Newcastle Knights caused a major upset by defeating the Penrith Panthers 20-12 in a match played before 14,125 fans at Panthers Stadium.
Holding a 14-point lead with four minutes remaining, tempers erupted as Danny Levi, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Tyrone May and Viliame Kikau all received early showers following a fracas brought on by frustrations from the home side.
As a result of the 8-point result, the Knights will avoid the wooden spoon after claiming the ignominious title over the past three years, while the Panthers will need to defeat the Warriors and Storm away from home to remain in contention for a top four finish.
Needing to respond following three consecutive get-out-of-jail results, the Panthers showed no signs of improvement with nine first half errors gifting the Knights countless opportunities to capitalise.
Opening the scoring in the 12th minute after having an earlier Shaun Kenny-Dowall effort pulled up for a forward pass, Aidan Guerra crossed for his third try in four weeks, while five minutes later centre Cory Denniss latched onto a nicely-weighted Kalyn Ponga grubber to score his first NRL try in two years.
Needing to respond after gifting the Knights two tries, the Panthers opened their account with a play reminiscent of the match-winning effort against the Sea Eagles three weeks ago. With Newcastle fullback Nick Meaney unable to maintain possession close to his goal line, replacement pivot Tyrone May swooped onto a loose ball to reduce the margin to 8-6 after 25 minutes.
Hitting back almost immediately after the Panthers failed to complete following points, Sione Mata'utia charged over to give the visitors a 14-6 halftime lead.
In a tense second half where points proved elusive, a 70th minute game-breaker from Ken Sio, followed by a sideline conversion secured the result for the Knights before the mutual display of aggression saw both sides reduced to 11 men.
Claiming a consolation effort through interchange hooker Wayde Egan in the dying moments, the Panthers were forced to pay for their poor ball handling as another comeback proved elusive after three great escapes.
As a result of the 20-12 scoreline the Knights recorded their first win at Penrith since 2013, while the loss maintained the Panthers' poor record in their final home game of the season having managed just three wins in the fixture over the past decade.
Next week the Panthers will head to Auckland to face the Warriors on Friday night, while the Knights will be hoping to post another upset by defeating the Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday afternoon.