Canberra once again conceded a lead and was dudded by questionable refereeing as history repeated for Ricky Stuart’s men on Sunday.
The Raiders led by 14 points against Penrith at half-time but faded badly after the break as the Panthers won a thrilling encounter 40-31.
Any chance Canberra had of making the top eight was dashed by yet another collapse as five different Penrith players crossed for tries in the second half, with three coming in the final 11 minutes.
Canberra fans were left particularly perplexed at Josh Mansour’s try with eight minutes left after what looked to be a forward pass from James Maloney.
An exasperated Stuart was asked if the video referee should be given the power to rule on forward passes, but the coach preferred to switch the attention elsewhere.
“I don’t know … I don’t want to get embroiled into that side of it again but that’s just marked our season,” he said.
“That’s why we’re not in the eight. We’ve got to so many leads this year and we should have won games.
“We’ve had so many people asking the question ‘Why aren’t you in the eight?’ There’s your reason.
“Too many times, we have got to wonderful leads going into half-time. We squander not just two-point, four-point leads, 16-point leads against the Broncos … 14 points against Penrith.
“People will say ‘Well, you can’t beat top-eight teams’.
“Well, we’re not good enough. But we get to leads … we’re not good enough to hold on to leads either.”
Penrith’s victory was its second big comeback win as many weeks, a result that sees the Panthers sitting fifth on the ladder.
Sunday’s other match saw Daly Cherry-Evans kick Manly to a 33-32 golden-point victory over Cronulla.
The Sharks led 32-26 but with five minutes left, Joel Thompson crossed before Cherry-Evans added the extras.
The Manly star then had a chance to win the game in normal time, only to squander his field goal attempt, but it was second time lucky for Cherry-Evans to spark wild celebrations among his teammates.
Shaun Lane crossed for a double for Manly, which sits 14th after a poor season.
Sunday’s results came on a weekend in which Melbourne Storm lost its eight-match winning streak and, as a result, top spot on the ladder.
In a thrilling clash on Friday, South Sydney hooker Damien Cook put on a masterclass as the Rabbitohs beat Storm 30-20.
And there are fears surrounding Cameron Smith’s fitness, with the Storm captain hobbling off with what looked to be an ankle injury.
Smith said after the match that he was uncomfortable in the area of his achilles, but Storm later announced “he won’t require scans and he’ll be reassessed on Monday”.
“We’re not quite sure what it is and the severity of it,” coach Craig Bellamy said.
“It must be on the edge of something, the achilles or something else … he felt a sharp pain going down into his heel.”
Cook was responsible for the game’s best try, running 40 metres to cross at a crucial time in the 63rd minute.
He constantly kept Storm on the back foot, too, a result that saw the Rabbitohs replace Bellamy’s side as ladder leaders.
Also at the top end of the ladder, Sydney Roosters held off a fast-finishing North Queensland Cowboys side to win 26-20.
The Cowboys are now just points differential above rock-bottom Parramatta, which beat Gold Coast 28-12.
The Roosters, who sit third, are one game clear of the fourth-placed St George Illawarra. The Dragons were beaten 18-12 by New Zealand Warriors.
On Friday, Ken Sio endured a first half from hell as Wests Tigers beat his Newcastle Knights side 25-16.
Sio kicked the ball out on the full twice in the first 40 minutes, before he was sin-binned for deliberately slowing down the play of the ball.
And the Tigers made the most of Sio’s errors, racing to a 22-4 lead, giving them enough of an advantage to withstand a belated Knights fightback.
In Thursday night’s Round 21 opener, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs stunned Brisbane Broncos, winning 36-22 at ANZ Stadium.