Life without Johnathan Thurston is not so bad after all for the North Queensland Cowboys.
Kyle Feldt's acrobatic try just two minutes from full-time and Ethan Lowe's sideline conversion, while staring into the glaring Townsville sun, secured a 14-12 win over gutsy Penrith to celebrate stand-in captain Gavin Cooper's 250th NRL game and what was supposed to be Thurston's 300th.
Thurston's season-ending shoulder injury suffered in Queensland's State Of Origin win on Wednesday looked to have left North Queensland's season teetering on a knife's edge, and a clash against the in-form Panthers was a perfect litmus test.
Penrith defended stoically all game in front of 17,876 fans but were finally picked apart in the second half, firstly through Corey Jensen's driving effort and then Feldt's Israel Folau-esque leap late on.
"It's just something that we practice at training, luckily enough Morgo put the kick on the money and I was just there to get up high and catch it," Feldt told Foxsports immediately after the game.
The Cowboys clearly have work to do if they're to replace the kicking game and attacking composure left behind by Thurston's injury.
They pounded the Panthers line throughout, forcing the Mountain Men into 400 tackles for the game, a significant stack of which were made on their own line.
North Queensland completed 36 of 42 sets and had countless opportunities from close range but took 56 minutes to break through the Penrith defensive brick wall.
Nathan Cleary scored a go-ahead try for the Panthers with 14 minutes to go and that looked to have sealed it before a frantic final 10 minutes.
Centre Dean Whare had been penalised five metres out from his own goal line for obstructing Cooper as he chased a Morgan kick, and after two more penalties the Cowboys finally had their try, and more importantly their ninth win of the year.
Penrith, meanwhile, missed the chance to make it five in a row and are now hanging precariously onto eighth spot.
The Cowboys' other three Origin stars backed up, Cooper, Morgan and man mountain Coen Hess from the bench.
Time and again in the first half North Queensland were rudderless on the last play of their sets, but this should improve as they adjust to not having Thurston on the field.
Stand-in halfback Kyle Laybutt showed some promising signs, but he was at fault when Cleary stepped through to score Penrith's second..
There was early feeling in this one when Jake Granville flattened Matthew Moylan with a bell-ringing tackle off an early scrum.
The tackler was split open and forced to leave the field while Moylan was left shaken on the Townsville turf. Neither was required to undergo a head-injury assessment despite the Penrith five-eighth looking groggy in the minutes after the incident.
Granville spent the rest of the first half on the bench but Moylan recovered to lay on the only try of the first half, his short ball on the right edge to Corey Harawira-Naera unlocking the Cowboys defence far too easily and allowing the back rower strolling over untouched for his sixth try of the season.
From then on both teams had their chances in an end-to-end with excellent field position, but neither could come up with a game-breaking play.
Harawira-Naera made another significant contribution bringing down a rampaging Hess from close range to save a certain try before super sub Tyrone Peachey looked set to score for Penrith before ex-Raider Shaun Fensom grassed him with a try-saving tackle from behind.