Penrith have finally moved into the NRL top eight after crawling to a nervous 28-14 win over a determined Wests Tigers at Pepper Stadium.
The match was in the balance on Sunday until Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dived over in the corner to edge his side to a six-point lead in the 74th minute.
Playing in his first match against his dad, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary, Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary then nailed the sideline conversion to kick his team out to beyond a converted try.
Five-eighth Tyrone May sealed his team's fifth straight victory with a try in the final minutes, lifting the Panthers past fading St George Illawarra into eighth spot on the ladder.
But despite taking hold of a finals spot with four games to go, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin admits his team need to find another gear to compete with the serious contenders.
"The season's only just starting now, the real season. There's a month to go, every team's got to find another gear now. That's our challenge," Griffin said after the win.
With a 19-5 advantage in plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone in the second half, a highly-strung Panthers had trouble putting the Tigers away in front of the healthy 15,170 crowd.
"I do have a concern with them, it's just messy," Griffin said of his team's last-tackle plays.
But the weight of possession still told on the tiring Tigers, and the final blow came when Panthers forward Corey Harawira-Naera broke into the backfield to set up Watene-Zelezniak.
For the gallant Tigers, the loss means they remain in a battle with Newcastle to avoid the wooden spoon after the Knights scored back-to-back wins over the past fortnight.
The Panthers were leading by two after the break when Dylan Edwards powered over from close range, however the Tigers went 90m in two plays to hit back through Luke Brooks.
In a closely-fought first half, Penrith were denied twice early by the bunker for players obstructing play by standing in the defensive line.
But there was no doubting Tyrone Peachey's opening try when he picked up an errant pass from Matt McIlwrick to race the 20 metres to the tryline.
The Tigers responded through Tuimoala Lolohea's long ball to David Nofoaluma for a try, before the Panthers kicked out again courtesy of a right-side shift for Watene-Zelezniak.
But the visitors made it two tries apiece on the halftime siren after centre Esan Marsters drew three defenders and squeezed a pass for Nofoaluma's second try.
"It was just disappointing that the tries they scored were things we could stop. However that was part of the pressure build as well," Tigers coach Ivan Cleary said.
"There's good signs. We've just got to make sure we improve where we can. I thought the first half when we had the upper hand, we didn't go on with it."