The late counterattack, masterminded by Matt Burton, wasn’t enough for the depleted Panther on Friday to steal victory from sharks.
With an unnecessary halfback Sean Johnson’s 79-minute field goal, Cronulla won a dramatic 19-18 victory over the depleted Penrith.
The shark appeared to have skipped an 18-0 lead when Matt Burton-inspired Panthers roared three times in a row on Friday night.
However, Johnson, who may be looking for a new club, nailed the winner of the game from a distance of 35 meters to block a thrilling victory.
A new breath will be breathed into the Cronulla season. Cronulla appeared dead and buried three weeks ago when caretaker Josh Hannay took over from John Morris and lost the first five games.
But with settled on a new half combination of Johnson and the reborn Matt Moylan, the shark is now in its best shape of the year and at the forefront of a shocking move to the Top 8.
It was a brave counterattack from the Panthers, who lacked five State of Origin stars in Nathan Cleary, Jarome Leai, Brian Toe, Isaah Yeo, and Kurt Capewell.
Burton coordinated his comeback in two attempts, but eventually coach Ivan Cleary may ruin his decision to rest his famous delegation.
The ladder leader could drop two straights and lose the top spot in Melbourne by the end of the round.
A lot of eyebrows were raised next season when Moylan was nominated as a 2022 partner for next coach Craig Fitzibon to recruit Nicho Hines in half.
But Moylan showed why he nodded.
The former blues star made his previous club feel his presence early and sent Ronaldo Muritaro to the backfield with a sharp notch in their own 20-meter line.
The test was when Muritaro pulled in full back and found his supporting 5/8 with a 55 meter sprint defeating the field of three chasers and stretching a dangerous hamstring.
“At 55 meters, he would have had a world of self-confidence,” former Kronura captain Paul Garen told Channel Nine.
It certainly gave his teammates enough confidence. They made the most of the kindless Penrith side and soared to a three-try half-time lead.
Briton Nicola’s aerial take was followed by Johnson on Moilan, ending the half with Muritaro’s acrobatic finish.
But what Cleary said in the hut was strange to him. He put the home side on the ropes of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium for most of the second period.
They were rejected three times across the line before Burton stopped on his left foot in the 58th minute to welcome visitors to the scoreboard.
Another attempt at the impressive rookie forward Isaac Tago and Burton set the Grand Stand finish just for Johnson to step up with the clutch.
Penrith Hooker’s Apico Roy Sau would have jumped into the field after being the 18th unused man in New South Wales who hit Queensland at the State of Origin on Wednesday.
However, after Coloisau has been reported twice, the opportunity to play in Game 2 can be taken out of Fitler’s hands, first for Aaron Woods’ lifting tackle and then for Sean Johnson’s trip.
The retreating Panther was Liam Martin in the second row, who was injected in the middle of the first half but was unable to stop the constant waves of shark attacks.
Shark duos Will Chambers and Andrew Fifita were also reported in the second half.