GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Moeaki Fotuaika of the Titans runs the ball during the round 12 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the North Queensland Cowboys at Cbus Super Stadium on June 02, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The Newcastle Knights have claimed the narrowest of victories over the Gold Coast Titans in one of the most important games of the NRL season to date.

The men from the Hunter were able to pick up the win on the back of a field goal to Mitchell Pearce in the dying stages.

It came after the Titans had established a 12-6 lead at halftime. The first 20 minutes of the second half were scoreless, before Mitchell Pearce scored to tie the game, followed by a Jake Clifford penalty goal which put the Knights ahead.

A Titans penalty just four minutes later meant the game was all square again with six to go, before a Pearce field goal with just ten seconds on the clocked kicked the Knights to the victory, and into the finals.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Mitchell Pearce of the Knights in the warm up during the round one NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Manly Sea Eagles at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 9, 2018 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

That’s right - the win for the Knights means they are now locked in. Adam O’Brien’s side, despite holding the second-worst attacking record in the competition, will play finals for a second straight year after being knocked out by the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the opening week last year.

The Knights are the seventh team locked into the finals, meaning there is just one spot left.

The teams in the running for that final spot currently look like this, keeping in mind the Titans have already played their 23rd game.

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8. Cronulla Sharks (20 points, -32)
9. Gold Coast Titans (20 points, -47)
10. Canberra Raiders (20 points, -85)
11. New Zealand Warriors (18 points, -115)
12. St George Illawarra Dragons (18 points, -126)
13. Wests Tigers (18 points, -162)

The Sharks would ordinarily now be in the driver’s seat with the better for and against, but they face a final-round clash with the Melbourne Storm. That looks as close to unwinnable as it gets, although Melbourne have won 19 straight and are overdue for a loss before the finals, either against the Parramatta Eels this week, or the Sharks in Round 25.

Still, taking that the Sharks don’t cause one of the upsets of the season next week, they will likely end up on 22 competition points.

The loss for the Titans brings the Warriors right into the picture however, with their final two games against the Titans and Raiders.

Their clash against the Raiders tonight is must-win for both teams, Canberra’s for and against being quite poor. A loss for the Raiders means they’d have to blow the Roosters off the park next week to have a chance at the finals, given one of the Titans and Warriors will get competition points next week.

For the Warriors, two wins over the Raiders and Titans means they can still qualify for the top eight. It will take a for and against turnaround in a big way though, as well as Cronulla potentially losing both of their games.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Sean O'Sullivan of the Warriors is tackled during the round three NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Warriors at GIO Stadium on March 27, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Dragons and Tigers were included because they can technically make it - it’s a mathematical nightmare that we won’t bore you with though.

Essentially, the Titans’ loss last night means they are now relying on other results to go their way (the Sharks losing to the Storm next week and the Raiders not winning both games) to make the top eight.

The loss for the Titans certainly helps the Sharks, who may now fancy themselves, while the Roosters’ injury crisis will have Canberra interested provided they can beat the Warriors tonight.

The games to decide the top eight

Round 24
Friday, 6pm: New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders, Mackay
Saturday, 5:30pm: Cronulla Sharks vs Brisbane Broncos, Brisbane

Round 25
Thursday, 7:50pm: Canberra Raiders vs Sydney Roosters, Mackay
Friday, 6pm: Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast
Sunday, 2pm: Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors, Gold Coast