NEWCASTLE'S 2019 campaign has reached crisis point after the Knights were humbled 38-14 by Gold Coast at CBus Super Stadium on Sunday - their fifth successive defeat.
The Knights trailed 28-0 early in the second half before a brief, forlorn fightback that delivered three tries in 11 minutes. It was too little, too late, against a Gold Coast outfit who dominated from the outset despite the absence of key forwards Jarrod Wallace, Kevin Proctor, Ryan James and Keegan Hipgrave.
Wallace was suspended, Hipgrave was ruled out on the morning of the game, Proctor broke down in the pre-game warm-up, and James suffered a possible season-ending knee injury early in the first half.
Despite the setbacks, the Titans gave Nathan Brown's struggling Knights a lesson in resilience and enthusiasm.
As Knights legend Matthew Johns noted on Foxtel: "Two teams turned up today, both one from five, and the loser was going to be sitting on the bottom of the ladder. Only one team turned up desperate."
The loss left Newcastle equal last with one win from the first six games, ahead of only Canterbury on for-and-against statistics.
It will also add to the pressure mounting on coach Brown, whose record at the helm of the Knights stands at 16 wins from 78 games, dating back to the start of the 2016 season.
Brown took little consolation from Newcastle's second-half revival, noting that for the second consecutive week his team had conceded too many points in the first 40 minutes.
"We want to be a good side," Brown said.
"At the moment people are probably sitting back laughing, because I'm saying that. We're one and five.
"We have got a side with some potential in the making, but you need to start your games well. It's too hard to try and make up too much ground."
Already two wins adrift of the top eight, the Knights desperately need to stop the rot when they host Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
Adding to the angst Knights fans are feeling, former Newcastle discard Tyrone Roberts was man of the match for the Titans.
Titans winger Phillip Sami and Roberts scored runaway tries after Newcastle fumbles in the first half.
Roberts, who played 97 top-grade games for the Knights between 2011 and 2015, made it a double late in the second half when he scored from his own grubber kick.
Centre Brian Kelly strolled through some feeble defence to set up a 22-0 half-time lead.
Newcastle needed an early try after the break to get back into the game, but instead they gifted Gold Coast another six points in the 49th minute when wingers Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Edrick Lee combined for a kick-return handling error, and Titans flanker Anthony Don pounced.
The Knights finally broke through in the 55th minute with a try by centre Hymel Hunt, and then five minutes later were denied when Connor Watson - playing five-eighth in the place of Mason Lino - was ruled by the video referee to have produced a double-movement.
Six minutes later, Knights back-rower Mitch Barnett won the race to ground a Mitchell Pearce grubber kick in-goal, then fullback Kalyn Ponga sliced through in the 65th minute to score his first try of the season.
Ponga was back to his best, catching every high kick and constantly threatening Gold Coast's defence. The 21-year-old racked up a game-high 261 attacking metres.
Gold Coast fullback Michael Gordon scored a last-minute try and kicked seven goals for an 18-point haul.