Panthers v Titans: Five key points
Cleary gets one over Taylor, the Panthers remain in the hunt and the Titans' halves conundrum. The key talking points from Penrith's vital win over Gold Coast at Pepper Stadium.
Cleary wins halfback duel
Some were dubbing it a glimpse into the future of State of Origin with Nathan Cleary going up against Ash Taylor in the must-win encounter.
Cleary cemented the win with a slick cut-out pass for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to cross for the match-winner, while also keeping a cool head to control the game with repeat sets at the death.
Taylor set up two tries but came up with the intercept pass that led to Matt Moylan's second half try in a clear sign that inexperience is still on his side.
Nevertheless, both players have bright futures ahead of them.
"[Nathan's] got a nice short kicking game and really put us under the pump," Titans coach Neil Henry admitted.
"[Ash] saw something and Moylan was pretty quick to get there considering he's got a sore hamstring.
"He didn't have to run too far but that's how it is."
Penrith remain in hunt
For every win the Panthers can notch up, Dragons fans begin to get nervous.
Anthony Griffin's side could be in equal eighth position by the end of the round pending the result between the Dragons and Sea Eagles on Sunday.
While there are still six more games to be played and a valuable 12 competition points up for grabs for each club, the momentum is building at the foot of the mountains after three straight wins.
They've now won seven of their last nine matches and in a more positive sign, are yet to reach their potential.
"It wasn't pretty but that's just what it's like at this time of the year sometimes," Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.
"Obviously there's two teams out there fighting over a valuable two points so at times it got messy. In the first half we were frantic and trying to find points but I thought in the second half we just settled down and got into a grind and executed our plays."
Titans' task gets tougher
You can just about rule the Gold Coast out of a late surge to the finals after Saturday afternoon's result.
It was a must-win clash and while the visitors tried hard, they just couldn't get the result.
The Titans remain in 12th position, two wins outside the top eight.
Gold Coast skipper Ryan James remained hopeful the side could win their remaining six games.
"If we keep playing consistently and playing the way we did defensively," he said.
"We didn't get the run of play tonight with 50-50 calls that never went our way. It's an uphill battle but we're going to compete until the end."
Injury concerns for Moylan and Hurrell
Penrith insist it was precautionary to bring skipper Matt Moylan from the field after the 26-year-old complained of hamstring tightness in the eight-point win.
After pulling on a day before the Panthers beat the Warriors in New Zealand a week ago, Moylan is now in doubt for the clash with the Bulldogs with a short five-day turnaround scheduled.
Moylan's four-pointer in the second half killed off any hope the visitors built after getting to within two at one stage of the contest.
"It's alright, just a bit tight but should be sweet," Moylan said post-game.
"I didn't want to risk doing too much to it and the coaching staff thought it was a good idea to come off. I knew it was tight in the first half and just tried to manage it through."
Meanwhile, the visitors sorely missed the strike power of Konrad Hurrell out wide with the structure thrown out the window as Kevin Proctor moved into the centres as a replacement.
The 25-year-old is set for scans on a suspected torn hamstring that could end his season.
Titans' spine conundrum
Neil Henry used just an incredible five out of a possible eight interchanges in the loss with Kane Elgey coming onto the field in the 67th minute.
The return of Nathan Peats from Origin duty has thrown a spanner in the works with Jarryd Hayne's move back into the No.1 jersey in recent months.
Tyrone Roberts was the man on the outer at the start of the season but recent form has seen the 26-year-old remain a mainstay in Henry's line-up.
How Henry manages the spine for the remaining six games is an interesting one with Elgey's return.
"Kane was here as a utility given we had to do a shuffle around if Nathan Peats wasn't able to play 80 minutes," Henry said.
"We'll have to have a look now that Konrad is going to be out for a few weeks as to what we do with our backline."