A contentious penalty try awarded to Eels centre Will Penisini inside the few final minutes has ended Newcastle's season.
For the second consecutive year, the Knights have been bounced out of the play-offs in the first week, going down to Parramatta 28-20 in Rockhampton in the elimination final.
The match ended in controversy with the penalty try awarded with the Eels ahead 22-20 and the game still in the balance. The try denied the Knights a final shot at victory after an absorbing, physical forward battle.
Knights winger Enari Tuala, who scored a hattrick for his side, was ruled to have impeded Penisini as he tried to pick up a ball from a Clint Gutherson kick near Newcastle's line.
But replays suggested the ball touched the ground before Gutherson got his foot to it, constituting a knock-on. The video referee decided it was play-on and then awarded the try after Tuala tackled Penisini as he tried to gather the ball.
It was a cruel end to the season for the Knights, who bravely fought back from 22-10 down in the second half to take the game down to the wire.
Eels halfback Mitch Moses was the architect of their win with one of his most dominant performances in a big game.
Two quickfire Eels tries in the space of two minutes late in the first half gave the Eels a 16-10 advantage at the break after the Knights got off to a flier.
The Eels kicked out on the full to start the game and with just over a minute gone, the Knights were up 4-0 through winger Enari Tuala.
Tuala crossed for his first in the corner off a superb Kalyn Ponga pass with the try his ninth in the past six games. Clifford missed the conversion from the sideline.
Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown bombed a try not long after when he spilt the ball with the try-line beckoning but the let off was short-lived for Newcastle.
Only a couple of minutes later, the Knights right edge defence was badly exposed with Waqa Blake crossing with ease and Mitchell Moses converting for a 6-4 advantage.
Parramatta put the Knights under all sorts of pressure both with and without ball following their try with three players, Tyson Frizell, Brodie Jones and Josh King, all forced off for HIA's.
But the side held it's ground and hit back through Hymel Hunt 24 minutes in to regain the lead.
Hunt was on the end of a right edge shift started by Mitchell Pearce and stepped inside some poor Parramatta defence to score in a handy spot for Jake Clifford to convert.
But in the blink of an eye, the Eels snatched the first half ascendancy after they were awarded a fifth tackle six again.
First Moses sliced through after Daniel Saifiti was called off-side and beat Ponga to score before Blake Ferguson crossed after lead-up work from Clint Gutherson and Will Penisisi.
The task became more difficult for the Knights just eight minutes into the second half when Moses put Ferguson over for his second try with a looping overhead pass and then nailed the conversion from touch for a 22-10 lead.
But Newcastle didn't lie down. Instead, they fought back brilliantly and it was that man Tuala who got them back into the contest with two tries in five minute.
The first from a Jake Clifford and the second off a bullet pass from Ponga. Clifford converted the first but missed the second to leave the Eels two points in front.