It was a remarkable start for the Eels with centre Ryan Morgan scoring the opening try of the match after just 71 seconds. Morgan grounding the football just millimetres from the dead ball line after veteran Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen failed to clean up a sharp Chris Sandow kick.
Parramatta co-captain Jarryd Hayne would've impressed New South Wales coach Laurie Daley with his defence in the opening stanza after showing great strength and positional play to hold up Cowboys' backrowers Tariq Sims and Gavin Cooper when both appeared certain to score.
The North Queensland outfit levelled things up after winger Ashley Graham crossed the stripe in the 10th minute, finishing off a backline movement which involved Johnathan Thurston and Bowen. The visitors went to the break leading by 8-4 after Antonio Winterstein crossed in the corner following another piece of Thurston magic.
Cult hero Fuifui Moimoi had the Eels' faithful on their feet early in the second half as he produced a typical barnstorming try, bumping off defenders at will on his way to crashing over at the Peter Sterling Terrace end of the field. Sandow converted from close to the posts as the Blue and Golds regained the lead.
In a see-sawing second half the Cowboys scored what turned out to be the match winning try when centre Brent Tate strolled over after picking the ball up from the base of the scrum 10 metres out from the Parramatta line.
The Eels almost snatched the game with just two seconds left on the clock as winger Vai Toutai had a try controversially disallowed.
After copping a pasting against Penrith on Monday night, coach Ricky Stuart said there were signs of improvement from his young side.
"That type of effort out there tonight is what we will build this club on," he said.
"If fans and sponsors want to be patient, this club is going to be a very strong club in a couple of years."
The Eels are at home again next week when they meet the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night and may be without centre Jacob Loko who picked a cork to his back.
Parramatta Eels 10 (Ryan Morgan, Fuifui Moimoi tries; Chris Sandow goal)
North Queensland 14 (Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston goal)