Panthers coach Anthony Griffin says his side were gallant in their 23-18 loss at home to the Cowboys on Saturday night, and is confident the string of narrow defeats will pay dividends later in the season.
The five-point defeat was their biggest loss since their Round 1 loss in Canberra, and was the fifth straight game to be decided by less than a converted try.
"It's frustrating and it hurts, but if we're getting beaten 40 -0 it'd hurt more," Griffin said after the game.
"We've got a really strong, young group of players that are playing for each other at the moment, but unfortunately we're getting beaten."
Griffin said that while his side isn't chalking up the wins, they can still take plenty of positives from the fact they're getting so close against quality sides like the Cowboys.
"It's a good habit to be in," Griffin said when asked about the side's tight losses to start 2016.
"I thought we played with a real purpose and energy. We went within two minutes of beating the two grand final teams from last year in the last month. In the short term the results aren't coming, but I thought it was a very strong performance tonight."
In a game where possession couldn't be split, the result seemingly came down to who could take their chances, and more importantly, which team could defend their line when it mattered most.
"We played well for long periods, but we had a couple of key defensive errors against us late in both halves and we paid a penalty for that against a really good side," the Panthers mentor said.
"We've got a couple of rookies defending on the right hand side that just got found out in the first half and we loosened up on [Jake] Granville in the backend of that second half at times.
"We played the premiers – they've had their team together for three or four years now – they just showed their class in being able to wriggle out of our defensive pressure. It looked like we had them covered but then they were just too good for us at times."
The Panthers weren't without their chances late in the game to either force golden point or even snatch a second straight last-gasp win, but couldn't land the knockout blow at the death.
"If [Jamie] Soward's field goal is a foot straighter then we're going to golden point," he said.
"There were a couple of wrong decisions we made there. When we're mature enough we'll be able to defend those."
Penrith fullback Matt Moylan wasn't happy with the way his side finished the contest, conceding a field goal and a try in the final six minutes to suffer their fourth loss by eight points or fewer.
"It's obviously frustrating," the Panthers skipper said after blowing an early 10-point lead against the defending premiers.
"We've been in a couple of tight ones this year but we definitely didn't finish off that game the way we would have liked, especially with that soft try at the end.
"It's not something that we're about. We want to finish off our games strong and that wasn't the case tonight."