MANLY'S pulsating 26-25 last-minute win over a valiant Penrith kept the club on target for its first minor premiership since 1997.
If the Sea Eagles can beat North Queensland in next weekend's closing round blockbuster in Townsville, they will finish the season on top of the standings.
But a loss would open the door for the winner of Thursday night's marquee clash between defending premiers Roosters and Souths, who both have far superior for and against, to take out the title.
Manly, the masters of Houdini-like escapes, scored twice in the final three minutes for an amazing win after Penrith fullback Matt Moylan appeared to have put victory out of reach with another ice cool 72nd-minute field goal to push the Panthers out to a 25-18 lead.
In a frantic finale for the almost 19,000 fans packed into Fortress Brookvale, the Sea Eagles notched a try to Jamie Lyon off some Brett Stewart magic in the 77th minute, before Tom Symonds crossed in the 80th minute to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Symonds, who had scored earlier in the match, slid across out wide despite a desperate tackle by Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward. Manly centre Steve Matai, celebrating his 200th game, was placed on a report for a first half shoulder charge.