A "shattered" Josh Hannay was left ruing several 50-50 calls that went against his Sharks against Newcastle, with the age-old "game of inches" cliché proving the difference between their bids for a top-eight berth.
Hannay lauded Cronulla's effort across a see-sawing, stop-start 16-14 loss to the Knights, which now leaves his side two points adrift of a finals berth with three weeks left in the regular season.
Such is the nature of this year's top-eight cluster, Newcastle now sit in seventh but could've finished the weekend in 10th instead of the Sharks.
It's a scenario that only raises the stakes with every line-ball call and Hannay was clearly unimpressed with the officiating around a critical penalty when Bradman Best was driven back into his in-goal in the final 10 minutes.
Another stripping penalty against stand-in Sharks captain Aaron Woods raised Hannay's ire, but he dismissed any follow-up with NRL officials on Monday as "pointless".
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"I don’t think we could have tried much harder. It would've been nice to get a call," Hannay said before highlighting the in-goal penalty in his post-match media conference.
"I’m devastated, I’ve got a devastated group in there. There were some things going on out there that made life really hard for us.
"Every game you see people driven back into the in-goal, every week. That's part of the game.
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"For that to be a penalty, they marched up the other end and they kicked the winning goal from that.
"There was a bunch of calls today ... they saw Aaron Woods stripped the footy. If that's not Aaron Woods that's an error.
"There were some tough decisions on us today."
Cronulla ended up on the wrong end of a 9-1 penalty count, though had plenty of headaches of their own making as well.
One instance saw a knock-on ruled against winger Sione Katoa in the play-the-ball, prompting an immediate captain's challenge at the behest of bench prop Andrew Fifita.
Replays showed Katoa had placed the ball directly on David Klemmer's foot, and the challenge was lost.
The Sharks' run home – Tigers, Broncos and Storm – means a final berth is by no means out of the question.
But given a last-round clash with ladder leaders Melbourne will likely decide their fate, Sunday's loss stings all the more.
"I'm shattered," Hannay said.
"But one thing I said to them, the two points is critical but making yourself, your members and family proud, that's something too.
There's not a Cronulla supporter that would've watched that game today that wouldn't have been proud of their effort."