A shock loss to the Wests Tigers at home after two straight wins to start the season brought to the surface some early doubts over Newcastle's top eight credentials.
Those same doubts will only intensify on Friday night if the erratic Tigers can spring another upset when Magic Round kicks off at Suncorp Stadium.
Reeling after the withdrawal through injury of Kalyn Ponga on Thursday, the Knights will need to overcome the mental hurdle of his absence as much as the loss of his physical presence to maintain the momentum generated by last weekend's morale-boosting come-from-behind win over Canberra in Wagga.
It's going to be a huge test for the squad which has the potential to make or break their season.
It's only the second time since Ponga and Mitchell Pearce linked with the Knights in 2018 that at least one of them won't be on the field.
The only other occasion was back in round 16, 2019 when Newcastle lost 24-20 to the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium.
A victory to kick off Magic Round without their two best players would be a huge confidence-builder moving into the second half of the season.
READ MORE: David Klemmer's exclusive column
Before the squad left for Brisbane, coach Adam O'Brien was at pains to declare his side was more than a one-man team and said Ponga's absence represented another opportunity for Tex Hoy to make a statement of his own at fullback.
"That's the way Tex has got to look at it - it's a real opportunity for him," O'Brien said. "Obviously, we've got Origin around the corner which I imagine KP is a certainty for so it's a good opportunity [for Tex] to get a head start on that.
It's important we go out and put in a good performance for Mitch because I know that's what he does for us every week.Adam O'Brien on Mitch Barnett's milestone game
"We are getting used to this now, having to play without our spine players in particular. To play without Junior [Mitchell Pearce] for as long as we have, I felt last week was a real step forward for our spine so it is disappointing. But Tex understands his role, he knows the type of game we want to play and I've got full confidence in him."
It will be a big night for forward enforcer Mitch Barnett with the rugged lock playing his 100th NRL game. O'Brien says the occasion won't be lost on his teammates.
"Yeah, it's 100 tough games in the middle for Barney," he said. "He leads from the front and the rest of the team is really excited for him.
"He's a guy they love playing with and it's important we go out and put in a good performance for Mitch because I know that's what he does for us every week."
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