The Knights have won three in a row for the first time in season 2020 but any hat-trick celebrations were put on ice because of fears five-eighth Blake Green has finished his year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien said after the game that it was not confirmed but it was looking like Green had torn his ACL, part of the "carnage" that had caused havoc with his squad this season, following on from serious injuries to Connor Watson, Andrew McCullough and Jayden Brailey.
The Hunter men finished off the Cowboys 12-0 in the dying minutes the same way they did the Sea Eagles a week ago – a superb cut-out ball by Kalyn Ponga to teammate Enari Tuala.
But thoughts were with Green. The injury could be the end of the NRL road for the veteran half, who celebrates his 34th birthday in September.
"I can’t confirm it obviously – I’m not a doctor but it’s not looking good,” O’Brien said.
Match: Knights v Cowboys
Round 15 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
"He’s shattered … I felt like crying with him. I’m getting used to it now though, having to do it a few times this year.
"It’s not a normal win down there [in the dressing room] for them. It’s pretty sombre.
But O’Brien felt Green still had plenty to offer in the NRL. The Knights are his seventh club after stints at the Eels, Sharks, Bulldogs, the Storm, Sea Eagles, and Warriors.
Match Highlights: Knights v Cowboys
"What he’s done for us straight away, and he’s certainly had a great season what he did with the Warriors, he had an impact with us," he said.
"I definitely think he can overcome this. Andrew McCullough is in the same boat. He was outstanding for us so both of those guys, if they choose to go that way, certainly offer a lot."
Green was playing just his third game in Knights colours after being signed until the end of the 2020 season, and was hoping to find a deal for 2021.
Green was in agony in the 18th minute as he gripped his left knee after a tackle from Jordan McLean and Justin O'Neill.
He was able to stand after some initial treatment and tried to stay on. But it was obvious he could not put any pressure on the left knee and he left the field moments later.
He had already copped a nasty knock in the 10th minute that left him receiving attention from a Knights trainer for a bloodied nose after a stray elbow in a tackle.
Overall it was a scrappy but still courageous win by the Knights, who were reduced to 15 men before half-time after Green left and then centre Starford To'a failed a concussion test.
Prop David Klemmer (246 metres) and lock Mitch Barnett (39 tackles and 210 metres) were each outstanding for the home side, who could have easily had a few more tries if luck was on their side.
Herman Ese'ese was denied a try for an obstruction, Lachlan Fitzgibbon lost another in the grounding and Aidan Guerra was held up over the line, all within a 10-minute spell in the second half.
That there were only two tries in it was down to some tenacious defence by the 14th-placed Cowboys. They had their own woes with Jason Taumalolo (calf) helped from the field in the second half.
The scrappiness at times came off the back of errors aplenty from both sides – 25 in total.
At one stage it was 12-on-12 with both Mitchell Pearce and Mitch Dunn in the sin bin for professional fouls.
Ponga grabbed his 10th try assist of the season when he put Hymel Hunt over in the north-east corner to open up the scoring in the 14th minute.
He missed the conversion but a kicked a penalty 15 minutes later to give the Knights a 6-0 half-time lead.
Taumalolo forced from field
They had lost To'a, who had scored in the past two matches for the Knights, to a concussion in the 34th minute sending back-rower Fitzgibbon into left centre for the rest of the match.
Ponga got his 11th try assist for the season putting Tuala over to round off another effective game from him, including a 55-metre dash late in the first half which broke down when the cover defenders caught him.
The Knights have regained sixth spot from the Rabbitohs while at the other end of the table, the Cowboys remain at 14th.
Newcastle's run home has two top-eight sides – Sharks and Roosters – as they try to push for a top-four spot.
But first up the Warriors will be waiting at Tamworth's Scully Park next Saturday.