A sensational upset win over premiership favourites Melbourne has sent Penrith into an NRL grand final clash with South Sydney, but star halfback Nathan Cleary is facing a nervous wait on his availability for the game.
Massive outsiders heading into Saturday's preliminary final against the red-hot Storm at Suncorp Stadium, the Panthers put together a display of gritty defence and innovative attack to secure a 10-6 win.
The victory means Ivan Cleary's team have a shot at redemption 12 months after suffering grand final heartache, while also reigniting their feud with the Rabbitohs from the opening weekend of the finals.
Nathan Cleary will however be sweating on Sunday's judiciary charge sheet after he was placed on report for a dangerous throw on Storm forward Kenny Bromwich in the first half.
"I didn't think it was that bad ... fingers crossed, we'll be fine," Cleary said of the tackle.
Having steered his team back into another decider, Cleary revealed he is almost certainly facing post-season surgery on the shoulder he injured in NSW's State of Origin II triumph earlier this year.
That though can wait until after next Sunday's premiership playoff with the Rabbitohs.
"I don't even think about it," Cleary said.
"I've gained confidence from putting in the work during training and strengthening it and stuff like that.
"I wouldn't go on field if I was worried about it.
"It's not really painful, it's just the worry of getting it in an awkward position. That's been the main thing for me to get my head around."
Cleary's father and Panthers coach Ivan has more pressing concerns heading into the South Sydney game as he counts the physical toll of the brutal effort to dethrone the Storm.
Prop James Fisher-Harris carried a knee complaint into the match and appeared to aggravate it towards the end of the first half, but did play out the game.
Recruit Tevita Pangai Jnr is also racing the clock after injuring his knee in the second half.
"We aren't a squad that is running around with no injuries," the Panthers coach said.
"It's just how it is. We battle on.
"I was super proud of the boys. It's the path we take for the whole second half of the year.
"But I'm not going to tell them they can't win."
The sign a shock was on the cards came early when a heads-up kick from dummy half by Cleary in the second minute found an unmarked Stephen Crichton to open the scoring.
Melbourne then lost key forwards Christian Welch and Brandon Smith to head knocks to leave them two short on the interchange bench and were guilty of repeated handling errors as they were held scoreless the first half by the resolute Panthers.
A Justin Olam knock-on early in the second half again gifted the Panthers possession and with it their second try, with a sweeping backline move allowing Brian To'o to cross over untouched.
The Storm did get on the scoreboard with less than 20 to play when a Cameron Munster grubber in the 63rd minute deflected off Viliame Kikau and into the hands of a grateful Ryan Papenhuyzen.
The Storm fullback converted to reduce the margin to four but despite some desperate moments in the game's dying seconds, the Panthers held out to end Melbourne's record-breaking campaign one game short of another grand final.
"I didn't see that performance coming," Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.
"We defended well, the opposition scored two tries.
"We lost two of our key players in the ruck there in the first 15 minutes.
"It was really disappointing ... we will hopefully learn from this but try and celebrate what we did for the rest of the year in the next couple of days."
Australian Associated Press