Two late Panther tries may have narrowed the final margin but they failed to dampen the spirits of a Sharks side that had managed to score a backs-to-the-wall victory at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Missing couple of their big names, then without Luke Lewis who suffered a calf strain in the opening 15 minutes of the match, the Sharks were brave defensively then did enough with the ball in hand in scoring a 26-22 win.
With the final margin probably flattering a Penrith side that scored two tries in the final six minutes, it was a crucial win for the Sharks who moved to six points, keeping them in touch with the competition front runners.
The Sharks were first on the board when Valentine Holmes easily won the race to a Josh Dugan grubber kick and despite the conversion attempt from wide out being waved away, the home team was up 4-0 after just five minutes.
Shortly after, it looked as if the Sharks had extended their lead when Panthers winger Christian Crichton fumbled the ball in his in-goal area, however after numerous replays the video referee disallowed a try to hooker Jayden Brailey, despite the on-field officials having originally ruled in Cronulla's favour.
Taking advantage of their good fortune the Panthers marched down the other end and following back to back penalties, would exploit an overlap for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to touch down.
Despite the attention of a vocal crowd former Shark James Maloney calmed potted the kick from a wide angle and Penrith were up 6-4.
With Luke Lewis replaced after limping to the sideline and Joseph Paulo off for a head injury assessment, the Sharks were then put under plenty of pressure by their opponents, but showing defensive determination were able to repeatedly turn the Panthers away.
Somewhat against the run of play the Sharks would then strike, moving the ball to their left where Scott Sorensen found space, beat a couple of tacklers, before setting sail for the try line.
Stepping the fullback, the local junior would sprint 35-metres in an outstanding individual effort, scoring his first try in the top grade in what was the sixth NRL appearance of his career.
Chad Townsend was on target with the kick and it was 10-6 Sharks, who then survived some anxious moments on their own line before taking the four-point lead to the half time break.
The teams went set for set in the opening exchanges of the second period before some Dugan magic broke the game open.
Isolated on a kick return, the Sharks fullback stepped past his chasers and took off on a run down the eastern touchline, finding Moylan, Sorensen then Edrick Lee in support and while the Panthers managed to cover the initial threat, a well worked move near the goal line saw Jayden Brailey put Jesse Ramien over three plays later.
Townsend again converted and the Sharks were up 16-6.
A penalty goal extended the advantage to 12 but it would be the Panthers who were next to score, fullback Dylan Edwards winning the race to a well-judged grubber kick.
The Maloney kick from in front was successful, making the score 18-12 with 22 minutes of the game still remaining.
The Sharks again had to withstand concerted pressure but they showed plenty of character, defending consecutive sets on their own line and once again they were rewarded at the other end for their efforts.
After two penalties had piggy-backed them down the field, it would be Ramien to score his second, the young centre winning the race to a Segeyaro kick to put the Sharks 10 in front.
Townsend converted from 10-meters to the right of the posts and the Sharks had a 12-point lead at 24-12 approaching the final 10 minutes of the match.
Throwing the ball around with nothing to loose, the Panthers managed two late tries, before the Sharks defended the final 30-second of the match to confirm the win.
The Sharks had a number of outstanding performers, none better than Fifita who played all but 10 minutes of the match, only a week after fearing his season was over.
Sorensen had some good touches on the edge, with his brother-in-law in Chad Townsend, controlling proceedings with a clever game at half back.
The Sharks now have six days to recover, before taking on the Titans up on the Gold Coast.
That game is scheduled for next Saturday at 5.30pm.
Jesse Ramien 2, Scott Sorensen, Valentine Holmes tries, Chad Townsend 5 goals