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Mitchell Moses will lead Parramatta in their march through a 35-year finals desert for at least another week thanks to a gripping, last-gasp 28-20 triumph over Newcastle.

Almost a year after the much-maligned No.7 fluffed a relatively simple but crucial penalty goal as the Eels' 2020 campaign went down the drain, Moses stood tallest when a Knights upset loomed.

Moses has been front and centre throughout the 1-6 finals record that has continually been cited whenever Brad Arthur's tenure is questioned.

But he and Parramatta prevailed in a points decision over Kalyn Ponga and the Knights, setting up a sudden-death Western Sydney derby with great rivals Penrith next week.

Ponga so nearly stole the show as an offensive switch led to Knights winger Enari Tuala bagging a hat-trick, the Newcastle No.1 sublime with their season on the line.

Whenever the Eels looked to be slipping, Moses straightened them up, two late repeat sets forced by his boot just as critical as a first-half four-pointer that was pure pace and poise.

"[Moses] was good, he ran the footy," coach Brad Arthur said.

"But I said it a couple of weeks ago on the back of the Storm game. He had a real focus around defence and his kicking.

"And he'll be the first to say his kicking wasn't great early in the piece in that breeze, but he soon corrected that and then came up with a couple of big goal kicks for us too."

This game had everything, not least four players on report and a steady stream of injury issues in an 80-minute game of hot potato played with the interchange card.

Bunker awards penalty try to Penisini

A penalty try with four minutes to play to Will Penisini – ruled to have been taken out by Tuala in pursuit of a Clint Gutherson grubber – only added to the most intriguing of afternoons.

Parramatta had Moses. Newcastle had Ponga.

And after Ponga sent a bullet-like ball that cut out three teammates to find Tuala en route to the try line, the Eels lead had been trimmed to two.

A lamentable outing for Mitchell Pearce suddenly lost even more lustre when he dropped the resulting kick-off stone cold, only for the Eels to cough up possession soon after in return.

The minute of drama was simply a microcosm of the other 79.

"At 22-10 I would've liked for us to be a bit smarter," Arthur said of Parramatta's nailbiting progression to week two of the finals.

"A couple of dumb things there that gave them a leg up and a few back-to-back sets.

Build from basics: Attacking prowess of Moses sparked from defence

"At 22-10 we should've put them away. But it's also good for us to have to hang in there, fight, stay calm and composed and play to the 80th minute."

Parramatta's day had started oh so ominously when Gutherson's opening kick-off sailed out on the full.

Ponga took just four plays to send Tuala over for his first, running a short-side raid that would be repeated more than once.

Whenever the Eels put boot to ball early it was tough to watch, but going through the hands for Waqa Blake to hit back proved far easier on the eyes.

Tyson Frizell's exit due to a heavy head knock in attempting to tackle Reagan Campbell-Gillard only added to the pain.

O'Brien praises Ponga and refuses to blame penalty try for loss

Blake Ferguson was in a similar, more coherent bother after 16 minutes, blowing up at a twisting tackle on his leg that ended up with Sauaso Sue on report and Ferguson limping from the field.

Frizell's eventual return came as Brodie Jones then departed for his own HIA, Ferguson also recovering in quick time.

The Eels' defensive blushes continued after Hymel Hunt stood up Haze Dunster, Dylan Brown and Makahesi Makatoa each in the space of five metres for a 10-6 lead.

Ponga channels Aaron Woods with his try celebration

A live cross on Channel 9's broadcast to injured Eel Reed Mahoney, who offered a succinct but unprintable summary of the first half, spoke to Parramatta seemingly dominating possession and field position, yet doing little with it.

But just as Newcastle looked to have the upper hand, Moses put the foot down, racing past David Klemmer for a 40-metre sprint to the line.

The very next set they went the length of the field, Ferguson finishing with points from Penisini's sublime flick pass.

Ferguson's second – courtesy of another Moses money ball -  stretched the Eels 16-10 half-time advantage further, only for Tuala's own double to peg the lead back as he grounded a grubber by reeling the ball in and hanging onto it against his leg.

From there the high stakes of sudden-death football only escalated.

And standing tallest after falling more than once, was the Eels No.7.

Press Conference: Eels v Knights - Finals Week 1, 2021

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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