NRL Round 1: Newcastle Knights vs Manly Sea Eagles in season 2018

THAT'S how you launch a new era.

Newcastle's new skipper Mitchell Pearce kicked an 88th-minute field goal to seal a memorable 19-18 victory against Manly in Friday night's season-opener at McDonald Jones Stadium.

A crowd of 23,516 - Newcastle's third-biggest first-round attendance since their 1988 inception season - erupted after Pearce stayed ice-cool in golden-point extra time to break the deadlock.

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It was Newcastle's first round-one win since 2015 and served notice that the three-time wooden spooners, whose squad has been bolstered by nine off-season imports, might be a force to be reckoned with in 2018.

Scores were locked 12-all at half-time, after Manly twice fought back from deficits.

New signing Kalyn Ponga, the 19-year-old fullback signed from North Queensland, was quick to show his class for the home team.

With his first touch of the ball, he fielded a bomb under pressure and earned a high tackle from Manly centre Brian Kelly for his trouble.

Three minutes later, Ponga received the ball 15 metres out on the left-hand edge and darted between Manly defenders Daly Cherry-Evans and Cutis Sironen to score.

He calmly landed the first goal of his NRL to give Newcastle a 6-0 lead.

Five minutes later, Newcastle's right-side defence was caught short and Manly scored out wide, through winger Jorge Taufua.

Play ebbed and flowed until the 31st minute, when another of Newcastle's new recruits, former Melbourne hooker Slade Griffin, powered over with a dummy-half surge.

Any hope of the Knights maintaining that lead until the half-time interval was cruelled by three consecutive penalties, which allowed Manly to hammer away at Newcastle's goal line.

Inevitably they cracked, and bench forward Shaun Lane scored after charging onto a short ball from close range.

Manly broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when they capitalised on a Marty Taupau offload, kept the ball alive and Kelly beat Sione Mata'utia to score out wide.

They came within inches of extending their lead in the 58th minute, only for desperate Newcastle defence to deny Taufua by holding him up over the line.

Newcastle brought the bumper crowd to life in the 61st minute after back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon scored from a Connor Watson short ball - his sixth try in the space of six games.

Ponga calmly nailed his third conversion to put the home team in front, 18-16.

Newcastle were denied by the video referee in the 67th minute when Manly coughed up possession, Knights lock Mitch Barnett scooped up the ball and plunged towards the line, and Kelly somehow prevented him from touching down.

Five minutes later, desperate defence from Cherry-Evans caused Knights winger Nathan Ross to lose the ball as he dived for the corner.  

A controversial penalty for off-side in the 77th minute allowed Cherry-Evans to kick a 39-metre penalty goal and force extra time. 

Cherry-Evans and former Roosters playmaker Pearce traded field goal attempts in the first five minutes of extra time, Pearce's first shot shaving the left-hand upright.

He made no mistake with his second attempt. 

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