A Daly Cherry-Evans field goal with two seconds remaining has turned Newcastle's horror week into a nightmare as the Knights lost the unloseable at Brookvale Oval tonight.
Wayne Bennett's men were the better team on the night, but two costly errors from two of their most experienced players cost the Knights dearly in the 15-14 loss.
The Knights will rue a missed penalty goal from skipper Kurt Gidley when they led 14-4 with 15 minutes remaining, while Darius Boyd missed a field goal from 20 metres out when his team had an overlap down the right side of the field.
It looked like Cherry-Evans had squandered a golden opportunity to win the game in Manly's second last set of the match, failing to get a field goal away on the last tackle with three minutes remaining.
But an incredible snap from 40 metres out on the last play of the match sunk the spirit of the gallant Knights, who have now slumped to their eighth loss from 10 games this season.
While Cherry-Evans stole the spotlight with his match-winning play, a brilliant cover-defending tackle from Josh Starling on a runaway Jake Mamo kept Manly in the contest in the dying stages of the match.
It came after a tumultuous week for the Knights, with revelations that at least 20 staff and players weren't paid as they were scheduled last Thursday.
With Nathan Tinkler's hold on the club loosening with every day, the immediate future of the Knights was thrown up in the air over the past 48 hours with Wayne Bennett telling Fairfax Media that he might not be at the club beyond the end of the season.
"At this point I am, yeah, but as I said, that may not be in my control,'' Bennett said of his future at the Knights.
The Knights lost Beau Scott before kick off with an abdominal strain, however the veteran backrower, who on Tuesday is expected to be named in the NSW team, is likely to be fit in time for the opening game of the series on May 28.
The Knights also lost Joseph Leilua with a hamstring injury, forcing a reshuffle in the backline that saw Jake Mamo play on the wing.
With both teams set to enjoy next week off with the bye, the round 10 clash took on great significance ahead of the Origin period.
The Knights came into the game knowing that a loss would all but spell the end of their season after winning just two from their first nine games against Cronulla and Canberra.
It was Akuila Uate who opened the account for the Knights, crashing over from close range to give the visitors a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes.
The Sea Eagles made nine errors in an uncharacteristic first half performance from Geoff Toovey's men.
On a horror night with his hands, Manly winger Jorge Taufua coughed up a Jarrod Mullen kick on his own line, handing Uate his second try of the night and Newcastle a 10-0 lead after 54 minutes.
But Uate gifted his counterpart a present of his own when he dropped a kick from the ensuing set, with Taufua crossing in the corner a few tackles later.
However a clever one-on-one strip from Dane Gagai on Steve Matai when Manly were deep on the attack saw the Knights centre run 70 metres to give his side a 14-4 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
Gidley had an opportunity to extend the margin to two converted tries, however the hooker missed a simple penalty goal from 30 metres out just to the left of the posts.
It proved costly, with Taufua bagging a double from another catching mishap from the wingers to leave Manly trailing 14-8 with 10 minutes on the clock.
A cross-field kick from Cherry-Evans again caused problems for the Knights, with McManus fumbling the ball right into the arms of the waiting Jamie Buhrer, with Steve Matai converting to equalise
Jack Littlejohn and Darius Boyd both missed field goal attempts before Cherry-Evans sealed the deal for the Sea Eagles.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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