NSW Origin big man Daniel Saifiti is a concerning casualty of Newcastle's first top eight appearance since March, with a feared medial ligament injury taking the gloss off a gritty win over Cronulla.
Errors and penalties dominated for much of the first hour in Redcliffe before a 14-14 deadlock deadlock triggered the contest into life but Saifiti was a late casualty.
As a "Newcastle" chant sprung up at Redcliffe's boutique stadium, Luke Metcalf was streaking away in one direction one moment, only for a one-on-one strip by Mitch Barnett to send the Knights heading the other way the next.
Seconds later Saifiti was prone on his back and battling with a left knee issue.
The influential prop gamely tried to play on before succumbing to the injury soon after, coach Adam O'Brien confirming at least a few weeks off for his star front-rower.
Match: Sharks v Knights
Round 22 -
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
"Potential medial ligament, I think he's had the same one previously," O'Brien said.
"The positive is he got back up in the line. The negative is he didn't stay in the line for too long. But he's in there getting assessed now so we'll see where he's at."
Both sides will be left sweating Monday's charge sheet after Barnett (high tackle) and David Klemmer (crusher) were placed on report for the victors while Braden Hamlin-Uele and Briton Nikora (both dangerous contact) were cited for the vanquished.
Another Sharks infringement – they were pinged for nine penalties and one six-again in total – proved the difference in a tense affair, Jake Clifford banging over the decisive penalty goal when Kalyn Ponga was tackled without the ball in support.
The gritty 16-14 win lifts the Knights to seventh on the ladder and critically, a win clear of chasing contenders Gold Coast (eighth), Canberra (ninth).
Not since round three have Newcastle been in the top eight.
But critically they have a favourable run home against cellar dwellers Canterbury, Brisbane and fellow contenders the Titans, and a relatively healthy roster – pending the eventual verdict on Saifiti.
Cronulla meanwhile head up the next batch of four teams on 18 points and are fading fast, having lost four of their past five outings.
They will be ruing squandering a 12-8 half-time lead.
After that early try to Enari Tuala that was squared up by Jesse Ramien, and then furthered by a simple try for Ronaldo Mulitalo, Newcastle squandered ample opportunities to do the same.
Knights icon and eighth Immortal Andrew Johns nailed their issues to the wall as he mused in commentary that their inside 20 forays were "all the same, there's just no variation" after yet another side-to-side shift was easily read by the defence.
But for every Knights mistake, the Sharks answered with a clanger of their own, be it breaking early for a scrum or attempting play-the-balls on an opponent's foot.
O'Brien has rarely been able to include the likes of Pearce and Ponga in the same teamsheet this season and agreed with Johns's assessment.
The Knights manage to regain possession from the opening kick off
With time though, the Knights coach remains confident the cohesion will come, right on time with finals looming.
"When we got an unexpected early result off the kick-off we got a bit panicky, we tried to force our hand and ... started to move the ball a whole lot instead of really earning the right [to]," O'Brien said.
"We addressed that at half-time and I thought Mitchell and those guys got us a lot more direct in the second half.
"I though they played a big part in the second half, especially in the field position battle, they controlled the game pretty well. Especially Kalyn, he was so busy through that middle.
Tuala has the blades of grass on his side
"It's going to get better, I'm glad they're back together."
While Cronulla's four-point lead held until the break, Tuala's second try came after the Knights finally converted one of their ample attacking chances, sneaking inside his sideline by a matter of millimetres.
From there the stakes ramped up even if the points did not, Newcastle prevailing with a finals berth now almost within their grasp.