Penrith overcame the absence of Origin half Nathan Cleary to scratch out back-to-back wins for the first time in 2019 with a scrappy 15-12 result over the Sea Eagles on Thursday night.
The win was built on an inspired knock from young forward Liam Martin, called from the reserves list into the starting side on game day when key man Viliame Kikau was ruled out due to illness.
Playing in his sixth NRL game, Martin tasted his first ever win and played a huge role, setting up one try and scoring the other as the Panthers made it two in a row.
Back from a one-game suspension, dumped Blues half James Maloney had arguably his best effort of the year in Cleary's absence.
Manly, however, showed few more positive signs than in their round 11 loss at home to the Titans, with only props Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau looking likely to get them on the front foot.
Match: Panthers v Sea Eagles
Round 12 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Despite having 57 per cent of possession, the Sea Eagles mostly looked bereft of ideas in the attacking 20 and their kicking game was poor.
Penrith had their own woes in the opposition red zone and after turning down a few shots at a close-range penalty goal eventually settled for two points in the 21st minute.
Having struggled to convert chances close to the line they instead cashed in from their own half when Martin split the line and found a supporting Dylan Edwards to make it 8-0.
Martin pounces on Elliot error
The only further score of the opening 40 came seconds before the siren when Maloney opted to slot a one-pointer from 38 metres out to make it 9-0 at the break.
After a first half flare-up that could easily have led to a sin bin there was another 15 minutes into the second half that saw both Jarome Luai and Jack Gosiewski marched for 10.
Not long after, Tyrell Fuimaono was placed on report for a shoulder into the jaw of Curtis Sironen.
Penrith reached a seemingly unassailable advantage when Brendan Elliot spilled a grubber and Martin pounced for a well-deserved try and 15-nil advantage with less than 15 minutes to play.
Rookie half Cade Cust set up bench hooker Manase Fainu with some handy footwork to give Manly a slim hope and then Cust crossed himself inside the final five minutes to set up a grandstand finish.
Cust gives Manly hope
A reinvigorated Sea Eagles threw some late shape at the Panthers but it was too little too late and they couldn't beat the clock.
On the back of two straight wins the Panthers now head into a round 13 clash with the Roosters with confidence rising. In contrast, Manly have now lost three of their past four and face a long road trip to North Queensland after Origin I.