KNIGHTS coach Nathan Brown has his private theories on what keeps going wrong, but to the club's fans it is an anomaly that just doesn't add up.
Why have Newcastle lost so many close games this season, when last year they were winning them?
Brown acknowledged after Saturday's 20-14 loss to Parramatta that Newcastle's string of narrow defeats this year had cost them dearly in the race for the play-offs.
"Whether it stops you finishing in the top four, or whether it stops you finishing in the top eight, you pay the price for it," Brown said.
The Knights have lost eight games by eight points or less this season, six of them on home turf.
Yet last year, when most would agree Brown had a roster with far less firepower than he does in 2019, Newcastle won eight games by eight points or less, and lost only three.
They opened their 2018 campaign with a 19-18 triumph against Manly in golden point, and a week later came from behind to win 30-28 in Canberra.
There were other gritty victories against Brisbane (15-10), Wests Tigers (22-20), Manly (18-12), Parramatta (18-16), Gold Coast (30-24) and Penrith (20-12).
On each of those occasions, the Knights either fought back from deficits or withstood pressure at the back end of games to defend their lead.
Somehow, 12 months later, they have been unable to summon the same resilience, despite regularly fielding superior personnel.
Brown said after Saturday night's loss, Newcastle sixth in a row, that "there's a reason why it keeps happening", adding: "It's not bad luck, that's for sure."
But he was unwilling to go into further detail.
"When you keep losing close games, there's a reason," Brown said. "I'm not going to publish that but I've got two or three pretty strong reasons there on why we've lost close games, but that's not for public.
"I've had that for a number of weeks now. There's some things we can do a little better and I've got a few ideas there.
"They add up. Your couple of bad losses that you have don't look as bad if you win your share of close games."
Brown said he felt Newcastle had this season performed "a fair bit like Canberra were last year".
The Raiders last season lost eight games by four points or less to finish 10th.
They have staged an impressive revival this year to sit third with four rounds to play.
"You win your close ones, you're in a great spot," Brown said. "You lose your close ones, you're in not such a good spot."
Saturday's loss left the Knights 12th on the ladder, after eight wins from 18 games, three points adrift of the top eight, with games remaining against North Queensland (home), Wests Tigers (away), Gold Coast (home) and Penrith (away).
They are still one win shy of their overall tally last season, when they finished 11th.
The absence of Queensland Origin workhorse Tim Glasby is unlikely to improve their hopes of ending their losing streak when they host the Cowboys on Saturday.
Glasby has been ruled out after suffering a concussion against the Eels.
His position could be filled by rugged prop James Gavet, who appears set to return from a hamstring injury.
After losing three straight games at home to teams below them on the ladder, Knights back-rower Mitch Barnett said it was time to give the Novocatrian faithful something to cheer about.
"We're still alive, a mathematical chance," Barnett said.
"And there's a bit of pride [at stake], too. Our fans have been through a lot, and we owe them wins. We've got the cattle here to produce that, and that's all the motivation we should need."
Meanwhile, two of Newcastle's bright young talents, halfback Phoenix Crossland (foot) and back-rower Beau Fermor (knee), will both miss the rest of the season through injury.
Fermor, who was considered a chance to make his NRL debut in the remaining games of 2019, has ruptured his anterior-cruciate ligament and will soon undergo reconstructive surgery.