THE Newcastle Knights blew an 18-point lead in crashing toa demoralising 32-28loss to St George Illawarra at Kogarah Oval on Sunday.
Searching for their first away win in almost two years, Newcastle apparently had the result wrapped up after a dominant first half.
But the home side, capitalising on a glut of possession, surged home with four tries to none after the break.
The result left Newcastle equal last on the ladder with Wests Tigers, who have an extra win to their name. The two cellar dwellers clash at McDonald Jones Stadium next Sunday.
The Dragons led 10-0 after two Jason Nightingale tries in the first eight minutes, but Newcastle responded with 28 unanswered points before half-time.
YOU BEAUTY: The Knights celebrate a try.
HARD YARDS: Newcastle’s Daniel Saifiti charges forward.
Stand-in fullback Nathan Ross scored a hat-trick of tries in the space of 11 minutes, giving him 10 for the season.
Back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon also crashed over, and centre Brendan Elliot scored out wide after the Dragons allowed a bomb to bounce.
The home crowd booed the Dragons, who were coming off lacklustre defeats by Parramatta and Canterbury, fromthe field at half-time.
The Dragons suffered an early setback when in-form prop Paul Vaughan limped off in the third minute with a calf injury.
St George Illawarra reduced the deficit to 28-16 when back-rower Joel Thompson scored in the 47thminute and Widdop converted.
PRESSURE: The Dragons concede another try.
Five minutes later, fullback Josh Dugan scored from dummy-half, Widdop landed the goal, and the game was back in the balance.
A quick penalty tap from Dugan three minutes later put the Dragons on the front foot again and they soon created an overlap for Nightingale to score his third try.
From the sideline, Widdop converted to lock scores up at 28 apiece.
With the visitors wilting, former Knights under-20s player Kurt Mann scored to put the home side back in the lead, 32-28.
Two minutes from full-time, Newcastle had a chance to snatch victory but lock Mitch Barnett coughed up a tough ball metres from the line.