It was some former Panthers who came back to haunt the club, as the North Queensland Cowboys secured late win after a Lachlan Coote field goal and Kyle Feldt try.
There were solid performances from players on both teams, as they battled hard and worked for each other to make the most of their opportunities.
Penrith battle hard especially, with five of their games this year being decided by a margin of six points or less.
It was the Panthers who burst out of the blocks early, as they caught the reigning premiers napping and scoring two tries.
Buoyed by their win last week, they made the most of those early opportunities with Bryce Cartwright yet again playing a crucial role in the tries.
The score could have been very different, had it not been for some resolute Cowboys defence that kept out a determined Panthers side.
But that would not last long, as the Panthers then went on to score again after some deft work from Peter Wallace, still playing at hooker.
The final result could have also been very different, had the Panthers opted to take a field goal rather than run it on the last.
They would come to rue that non-decision, as the Cowboys then went down the field and slotted a field goal of their own before scoring a try.
The old switcheroo again took place at the Cowboys, with Jake Granville starting off the bench and some new-found advice sparked Granville’s attack.
“I brought some of our fresher forwards on there in the second half and they started to create a few things for him and he took advantage of that,” Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
“I think he’s probably been over-thinking things a little bit when he gets out of dummy-half. I said to him tonight if you get an opportunity just think run and pin them.”
Drawing praise from a Panthers perspective was Trent Merrin who turned in perhaps his best performance in a Penrith jersey.
“He was strong tonight…he’s doing a great job for us,” Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.
“He’s come here and he’s been one of our better performers every week and that’s what you want from your marquee purchases.”
Despite being put on report for a crusher tackle, Cowboys prop Matt Scott does not believe there was much in it.
“I’m not too worried about it. I didn’t think there was anything in it. Trent said to me after the game that he milked it, so I’m hoping they take that into account,” Scott said.
“We had one â€“ I think Jason Taumalolo’s first carry â€“ where he was put in the same position, but he gets up and plays the ball and it doesn’t get looked at.
“The opposition wants the two points or they want a penalty so they stay down and it gets looked at. There was no force applied to his head and he [Merrin] said after the game his neck was fine.”
Player of the Game:
3. Dallin Watene-Zelezinak
2. Justin O’Neill
1. Trent Merrin
Cowboys 23 (Javid Bowen, Justin O’Neill, Gavin Cooper, Kyle Feldt tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals; Lachlan Coote field goal) defeated Panthers 18 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2, Trent Merrin tries; Jamie Soward 3 goals) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: 12-10 Cowboys. Crowd: 13,725. On report: Matt Scott (pressure to the head/neck).