Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said securing the minor premiership was the next step on his young side's remarkable 2020 journey after they officially booked a qualifying home final with a 20-2 win over the Eels on Friday night.
The Panthers are assured of a top-two finish with two rounds remaining and could seal the JJ Giltinan Shield as early as next week with victory over the Cowboys.
The 18-point victory over their western Sydney rivals made it a club record eight wins in a row at Panthers Stadium - the venue they'll host their first finals game in a decade after receiving the all-clear last month.
"It's nice to be [breaking] records but it was certainly a goal to get the home final," Cleary said.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Round 18 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
"It doesn't guarantee you anything but if you could pick any ground to play at it would be Panthers Stadium.
"That gives some sort of advantage, definitely. But as I said, it's not going to guarantee you anything."
With the finals just three weeks away the ladder leaders made a statement against one of the sides they may well have to get past in October if they are to collect the club’s third premiership.
Nathan Cleary controlled the game superbly and fullback Dylan Edwards ran for an astonishing 336 metres as Penrith took charge in the second half when the weight of possession told against the Eels.
Martin flies above the pack
The home side had 61 per cent of the ball in the first half but the Eels did a remarkable job to stay in the contest, denying Moses Leota, Jarome Luai and Josh Mansour with desperation goal-line defence.
"We had to show plenty of patience, it felt like we certainly dominated field position and had opportunities and half-chances but we kept finding a way to shoot ourselves in the foot," said Cleary.
"The [Josh Mansour] try on half-time was critical, it just gave us enough. A big confidence boost.
"I don't think we'll leave tonight any less confident, I thought we controlled possession, field position and created chances."
The Eels sorely missed regular hooker Reed Mahoney with a shoulder injury with Mitchell Moses and Jai Field struggling in attack.
Stephen Crichton's juicy battle with Waqa Blake got started in the sixth minute and entertained the crowd throughout with the powerhouse centres expected to resume their battle in October.
The Panthers peppered the Eels' right side defensive edge of Blake and Blake Ferguson, while Maika Sivo was also put under pressure constantly with towering Nathan Cleary mid-field bombs.
A high-flying effort by in-form back-rower Liam Martin in the 56th minute gave the Panthers a 10-point advantage before a Jarome Luai try on the stroke of full-time put the exclamation mark on a 13th consecutive win.
In the only concerns for the Panthers, Spencer Leniu and Api Koroisau both suffered head knocks but Cleary said the pair were "fine" and would be monitored over the next week.