Knights coach Nathan Brown slammed the side's performance as the worst of the season after going down to the Wests Tigers 33-12 in front of their home fans on Sunday.
The visitors put on three tries in the opening half on the back of some clumsy goal line defence and an easy four-pointer to Jacob Liddle out of dummy half.
With the opportunity to leave the joint venture outright last on the Telstra Premiership ladder, Brown's men were no match as the Tigers scored once more in the second half before closing the game out in style at the death.
Brown admitted the occasion could've played a factor with the voice for mining round drawing an impressive crowd of 19,531 to the venue, while the futures of some off-contract players may have also come into effect.
"It was definitely our worst performance this year, without a doubt," Brown said post-game.
"It was the first time in 18 months we had been favourites and we built it up as a big game because it was important," Brown said.
"We didn't attack as well as we have done and have got 18 players off contract that could have collectively played a part.
"Whether that played a part in it and had people focus on it more, I'm not sure."
With many believing whoever would take out the match between the two sides would avoid the wooden spoon in 2017, Brown admitted it was the first time in a while the topic of the Telstra Premiership ladder was focused on throughout the week.
"The table was spoken about and we haven't because we played a side today that was equal with us and on par with us," Brown said.
"It's not normally something we talk about but obviously this week playing a side we are in reality playing for the spoon – it was spoken about."
The Knights were denied a try before half-time that could've narrowed the gap heading into the break, however Brown wouldn't be brought into the topic of referees after the side's lack of respect for the football.
"You can look at it against Manly and the Dragons last week that the effort is there and you deserved [to win]," Brown said.
"Today I don't think we deserved the calls and I don't think our performances warranted it, where as against some other sides we were unlucky.
"When you put in a performance like the first half today, it's a bit hard to be critical of the referees."
Newcastle's attack look disjointed with the return of former skipper Trent Hodkinson in the halves, while the edge defence was caught out on a number of occasions.
The Tigers blew two opportunities in the first half that could've extended their lead further, however the Knights' new-look spine were not on the same page throughout the contest.
"We obviously made some changes and didn't attack as well as we have done, and there are players off-contract so [both] may have played its part," Brown said.
"Our attack struggled but I wouldn't say it was Trent Hodkinson's fault. You can't just blame one player.
"Danny Levi's good and bad today was a long way apart. Rossy (Nathan Ross) had an unhappy day – blokes in key positions that performances fluctuated a lot."
Knights back-rower Jamie Buhrer made a successful return from a broken foot and believed the club could win at least two more games to round out the year and avoid the wooden spoon.
"There are plenty of games we've played this year that we feel we could've won," Buhrer said.
"Today wasn't one of them but I'm confident we can get some wins up, but not with performances like that."