The North Queensland Cowboys pulled off a stunning 27-23 victory against the Panthers last night, with Jason Taumalolo making his successful return back to the field.

Sidelined since Round 7, the Cowboys skipper spent nine weeks out of the competition with a knee injury- the longest time he'd ever spent on the sidelines from an injury.

After coming off his very first surgery, Taumalolo admitted before the game that he was nervous about getting going from the interchange bench.

“Not often do I get nervous before games but I think that was my longest stint (sidelined) since the start of my career so it feels like Round 1 all over again for me,” he said via Fox League.

While he started the game on the bench, he didn't have to wait long to be interjected into the game, coming on in the 24th minute.

Finishing the game with 185 running metres from 17 carries, five tackle busts and 26 tackles, Taumalolo insisted "the first 15 minutes weren't too pleasant" but found his footing and "second-wing" at half-time.

“(It was) one of those games where you get to watch the boys grow a bit... It was a bit of a dogfight, both teams going at it. I guess it was a battle of who wanted it more,” Taumalolo said.

Impressed to have him back on the team, coach Todd Payten stated the captain had some big moments throughout the game.

“He had some really important carries for us when it mattered. He gives everyone confidence, which is good,” Payten said.

Down at halftime by eight points, the Cowboys took control of the second half against a makeshift Panthers line-up who were without Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Moses Leota, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo.

This saw the game tied at 22-all heading into the last few minutes before veteran halfback Chad Townsend took the lead with a field goal. However, the game was far from over as Jack Cogger took the game to golden point.

“Given we were eight points down at half time and the way the last five or 10 minutes unfolded. If that goes against us, we'd have to really regroup,” Payten said.

“Physically it was challenging, they're going to be exhausted over the next three or four days.”

It took eight minutes in golden point for either team to win the game. Lining up for a field goal, Scott Drinkwater managed to win via a try getting past the scrambling Penrith defence in the 88th minute.

“I think we got a good lesson tonight,” he added.

“We didn't get a shot inside their 20-metre zone until the 53rd minute. They don't make an error coming out of their own end, their discipline is good. We gave away three yardage penalties and two yardage errors in the first half.

“They challenged our ruck, our forward pack and there were times where we were hanging on. That's what you've got to do consistently week after week.

“We dug deep and made some really tough decisions as individuals and as a team tonight. That's why we're sitting here celebrating.”