KEN Sio scored a hat-rick of tries but fellow winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall proved the hero as the Knights scored a last-ditch 22-20 win over Wests Tigers in Tamworth on Saturday.
But the win could have come at a considerable cost, amid fears skipper Mitchell Pearce may have suffered a pectoral-muscle injury.
Down 20-18 with less than two minutes left, Kenny-Dowall leapt high to pull in a Jamie Buhrer cross-kick to dive over in the corner for a memorable victory.
Kenny-Dowall had earlier spilled a Tigers bomb to gift the opposition a try but more than made amends with his heroic effort at the death.
Buhrer, who found himself in the unfamiliar role of playmaker late in the game, provided the pinpoint kick after Pearce was assisted from the field.
The Knights scored five tries to three. Sio grabbed one in the first half and a second-half double, but fullback Kalyn Ponga could manage only one goal from six attempts.
The Knights led 10-0 at half-time but the scoreline wasn't a true reflection of their dominance.
Virtually from the start of the game, they had the Tigers on the back foot and could easily have come up with more than just their two first-half tries.
Ponga missed an early penalty-goal attempt, before his side went close when back-rower was Mitch Barnett held up over the line after six minutes.
The Knights had all the territory and found plenty of metres through the middle of the Tigers’ ruck.
But it was on the right edge they eventually cracked mid-way through the half.
Jack Cogger took the ball left and found Ponga, who caught the Tigers short out wide with a precision cut-out pass for winger Sio to force his way over in the corner.
Ponga missed the conversion but the Knights led 4-0.
Back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon went close not long after but could not hold onto a Pearce short ball close to the line.
Pearce made it 10-0 five minutes before the break when he combined with Cogger before angling through some tired Tigers defence to cross next to the posts.
Newcastle’s defensive resolve was eroded in the space of the opening eight minutes of the second half.
Interchange forward Michael Chee Kam got the Tigers on the board when he burst through Cogger and Aidan Guerra to score, before a Kenny-Dowall clanger gifted Kevin Naiqama a try when he spilled a towering bomb.
Within the space of six minutes, the Tigers were in front and it was 18-10 when Benji Marshall chip-kicked for fullback Corey Thompson to score just three minutes later.
Sio scored his second off a great long ball from Fitzgibbon midway through the half to narrow the gap to 18-14, but the Tigers extended the lead to six when Esan Marsters landed a penalty goal with 15 minutes remaining.
Tries by Sio (69th minute) and Kenny-Dowall (78th minute) enabled Newcastle’s great escape.