Penrith Panthers have escaped an almighty scare to reach their first NRL Grand Final in 17 years with a 20-16 win over South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Panthers were their own worst enemies at times, as they blew of couple of opportunities to score points, but they did just enough to set up a blockbuster clash against Melbourne Storm in next Sunday's decider.
The result also extends the Panthers' winning streak to 17 games, which equals Canterbury Bulldogs' 2002 record.
Coach Ivan Cleary knows there is plenty of hard work for the Panthers to do, if they want to beat the Storm in the final.
Cleary hasn't been to a Grand Final since coaching NZ Warriors to the 2011 title decider.
"I feel extremely proud, happy and grateful," says Cleary. "I guess it's the second-best feeling you can have, getting into a Grand Final.
"It's very hard to get here, so I'm very grateful and proud of the boys, and looking forward to next week.
"The dream is to win it - that's the dream - but it's nice to get there. It's hard to get there.
"You obviously can't win one, if you're not in it... I can't wait."
After falling behind early, the Panthers hit back with tries from Brian To'o and Tyrone May, as they took a 14-6 lead into the halftime break.
The Rabbitohs opened the scoring in the second through Dane Gagai to make it a two-point game, but a magical run from Isaah Yeo set up a try for Dylan Edwards to restore the Panthers' buffer.
But the Rabbitohs wouldn't budge, as a try to Corey Allan made it a four-point game.
With four minutes remaining, Adam Reynolds thought he had kicked 40/20, but his foot was had touched the 40-metre line, so it was rubbed off, and the Panthers held on for the win.
Kiwi props James Fisher-Harris and Zane Tetavano were both put on report during the match for high tackles, but Cleary doesn't expect the duo will miss the Grand Final.
"There were some similar ones tonight unfortunately where low tackles ended up in high tackles with guys falling," says Cleary.
"I mean, that's the rules, if you make contact with the head, so if that's a penalty if you make contact with the head, that's fair enough, but I think common sense will probably prevail."
For the Rabbitohs, coach Wayne Bennett is positive his side will be stronger after the loss and backs them to reach the Grand Final next year.
"We had a great end to the season, there's no doubt about that," says Bennett. "We struggled at the beginning and we struggled when we came back from COVID, but each week, we got better and we played some of our best football in the last month.
"There's much to look forward to if we handle it properly. I think we're a better team than we were last year and if we can be better again next year, it might be enough to get us over the hurdle and put us in a Grand Final.
"We're not losing anybody that's here tonight. We're getting a couple on top of what we've got and getting the injured players back will help as well."
Join us next Sunday for live updates of the NRL Grand Final