NRL: Newcastle Knights survive late scare to beat Parramatta Eels 18-16 in Mitchell Pearce return | PHOTOS, VIDEO

An inspirational Mitchell Pearce completed a memorable comeback from injury as the Knights scored a dramatic 18-16 win over Parramatta on Friday night.

The Eels looked to have snatched victory at the death when a Corey Norman grubber was collected and planted over the line by winger Bevan French with 34 seconds left on the clock.

But it went up to the video referee as no try with French thought to have had his toe on the touch-in-goal line as he collected the rolling ball and replays confirmed it.

In his first game back in three months, Pearce was enormous with his kicking game and the way he marshalled his teammates playing a big part in a gutsy win.

Not far behind him was Danny Levi in his first game this season as a starting hooker while prop Daniel Saifiti and debutant fullback Nick Meaney also played strongly.

The Eels jumped out of the blocks early and raced out to a 10-0 lead before hardly raising a sweat.

Some poor on-line defence from Knights prop Josh King gifted the Eels their opening try after four minutes with big Siosaia Vave swiveling out of a tackle to score the softest of tries from close range.

Clint Gutherson’s conversion gave the visitors a 6-0 advantage and it was 10-0 six minutes later when five-eighth Mitchell Moses went over after some dynamic lead up work from Jarryd Hayne and Beven French.

Hayne beat several defenders in an angled run before linking with his winger down the right touchline.

With the Knights defence converging, French kicked in-field for Moses to run onto the ball to score for a 10-0 advantage.

But if the Eels played like millionaires early, they were back to being Parramatta paupers with the football for the final 25 minutes of the half as the Knights worked their way back into the contest off the back of a string of Eels errors.

A Gutherson fumble in his own in-goal from a Pearce grubber gave the Knights their first points after 15 minutes with Connor Watson diving on the loose ball after it rebounded off his chin to narrow the gap to 10-6.

With Pearce calling the shots, Newcastle looked to bridge the gap further but as bad as the Eels were in possession, their defence held.

That was until Saifiti slipped a great pass to replacement Jamie Buhrer close to the Eels line with winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall planting the ball in the corner for a 10-10 halftime scoreline.

It was that man Pearce who got the Knights in front for the first time in the game just seven minutes into the second half.

After playing a part in bundling French into touch 10 metres out from the Eels line, he ran onto a great pass from replacement Chris Heighington to crash over under the posts after Brad Takairangi inexplicably charged out of the line to open up a huge gap.

At 16-10, the Knights were on top but some poor defence on Hayne deep in Eels territory let the visitors off the hook.

Hayne beat several defenders and then found a charging Corey Norman who sprinted away to score and tie things up with 25 minutes left.

Newcastle got their nose back in front when Sio kicked an easy penalty goal.