THE Newcastle Knights appear back on track after Saturday's 44-4 demolition of Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium - their biggest win since the last time they made the finals.
The 40-point victory margin was the largest by any Newcastle side since the last regular-season round of their 2013 campaign, when they thrashed wooden spooners Parramatta 54-6.
That year the Knights finished seventh on the points table before knocking out Canterbury and Melbourne in play-off boilovers, only to succumb to eventual champions Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final.
They have not featured in the post-season since but are are unlikely to get a better opportunity to emerge from the finals wilderness.
With seven games remaining - four of which are at home - the Knights occupy sixth rung on the ladder and are three points ahead of ninth-placed Manly, who they host on Sunday.
After consecutive losses to Canterbury and Melbourne, Newcastle were desperate to stop the slide on Saturday and the inclusion of new signing Blake Green provided a catalyst to ignite fullback Kalyn Ponga, who produced a dazzling two-try performance.
Skipper Mitchell Pearce said it was important that the Knights use Saturday's triumph as a launchpad.
"It was vital to win tonight," Pearce said.
"It was a massive game for us. It wasn't even something that really needed to be said.
"Obviously the coach prepped us as well as we could this week, and that showed on the field.
"But we knew it was a big game, at home here after a couple of losses. We've been up and down with our performances.
"So it's about enjoying the win, getting back in on Monday and getting ready to get steely for next week."
Knights coach Adam O'Brien was confident there is still plenty of improvement in his team, who are likely to be boosted this week by the return of NSW Origin prop Daniel Saifiti from a knee injury.
Green's combination with Pearce and Ponga should also continue to develop, given that they had only one training run before Saturday's game.
"We're still a work in progress," O'Brien said.
"I think our best footy is still in us.
"There was a period there at the back end, the last probably 10 minutes I thought we could handle a little bit better ... but look, it's a real step in the right direction."
The most satisfying aspect of Saturday's win for O'Brien was that his troops contained the Tigers to one try, which back-rower Luciano Leilua scored after a fortuitous ricochet.
But the eight tries Newcastle scored will also provide a major confidence boost.
"There's a couple of things we need to get better at," O'Brien said.
"At the end there, we gifted them some field position, but we never wavered with our defence, and I'm really proud of them."
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