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NRL finals hopes alive after thriller

They may have just entered the top eight for the first time since March, but could the Newcastle Knights now emerge as the team to begin a finals charge that runs deep into September?

The Knights claimed a scrappy 16-14 win over Cronulla on Sunday, with a 72nd-minute penalty goal from Jake Clifford proving the difference in a closely-fought affair.

The gritty win lifts Newcastle into the top half of the ladder for the first time since round three, when they had fallen into a seemingly never-ending season-long slumber.

But the return to full health of stars Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce has coincided with a season-high three-game winning streak, and resulted in arguably their best form of the season.

Adam O’Brien’s side is now in seventh spot with three games left in the season.

The victory may have come at a cost, however, with key front-rower Daniel Saifiti suffering a left knee…

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