Andrew Johns has joked that he still suffers cold sweats when recalling the night the Knights let a grand final berth slip through their fingers, but you sense he might not be joking.
It was the night the Knights self-destructed, squandering a seemingly unassailable 16-2 half-time lead against the Sydney Roosters in the 2000 preliminary final to lose 26-20 and fall one game short of a grand final date with the Wayne Bennett-coached Brisbane Broncos.
Darren Albert kissed a television camera after scoring from a set play on the stroke of half-time, and Johns hooted and hollered running up the Sydney Football Stadium tunnel into the dressing-rooms, wishing injured Roosters lock Luke Ricketson all the best for Mad Monday.
But in a five-minute meltdown midway through the second half, epitomised by skipper Brad Fittler swooping on a wayward Johns pass and striding away to score despite the pain of a sprained ankle, the Roosters raced in three tries to take a 20-16 lead.
One of the other endearing memories of Newcastle's inexplicable implosion was Johns, frustrated and filthy, hurling his mouthguard into the ground in the final minutes.
In a rematch some 13 years in the making, the Knights and Roosters will again square off for a place in the grand final at the same venue on Saturday night.
Considering Johns and Fittler are the colour men on Channel Nine's commentary team, expect those images and others to be replayed and discussed in the lead-up to the sixth finals showdown between the clubs that share the same colours.
"I'd like to have that play again when I threw the intercept. I don't know what went on there," a shattered Johns told reporters in the dressing-rooms afterwards.
"I still don't know why we got beat or how we got beat."
The shell-shocked Knights never recovered.
The Roosters went on to the title decider only to suffer a 14-6 loss to Brisbane, giving the Broncos and Bennett a fifth premiership from as many grand final appearances.
Johns scored a try, and set up Newcastle's other three by Mark Hughes, Albert, and Timana Tahu, but the one he laid on for Fittler was the much talked-about turning point.
It was the last appearance in Knights colours for departing heroes Tony Butterfield and Matthew Johns, and coach Warren Ryan's final game before returning to retirement, though some of Ryan's hands-on duties had been handed to assistant Michael Hagan several weeks earlier.
In a frantic Newcastle dressing-room at half-time, tactics were changed, and the Knights went after the Roosters in the second half with an up-and-in defensive strategy that Fittler exploited.
Instead of putting the Roosters to the sword, the Knights played like headless chooks.
"It's not over until they ring the bell and you're in front," Ryan recalled yesterday.
"I wasn't there for all its history but it would have to be one [of the club's most painful losses], because how many times do you play for a place in the grand final and have it almost in the bag at half-time, and then blow it in the second half? It doesn't happen too often, does it.
"Sometimes teams don't understand you don't have to win by the length of the straight."
Butterfield, who choked back tears at the post-game media conference, captained the Knights that night in his last of what was at the time a record 220 first-grade games for the club.
He said last night that he couldn't remember a more bitter defeat in his career.
"It was my last game, and it was a game that should have been won," Butterfield said.
"Take nothing away from the Roosters, they dominated that second half, but it was a sad night."
The Knights lost in similar circumstances to the Roosters in a qualifying final in Newcastle two years earlier, leading 15-0 at half-time only to succumb 26-15 in the second half.
On that day, Roosters coach Phil Gould took confidence from an Andrew Johns field goal in the final seconds of the first half that proved to be Newcastle's last point.
"When they took the field goal maybe they thought 14 or 15 was enough, but if we kept them to that I backed us being able to score it," Gould said.
Newcastle's only victory from five finals against the Roosters was in 2001, en route to their grand final triumph over Parramatta, and went some way to easing the pain of the previous year.
Andrew Johns was down for the count after his head struck team-mate Bill Peden's hip in the third minute of the qualifying final at what was then known as Marathon Stadium.
As Johns struggled to clear the cobwebs, and the Newcastle faithful held their collective breath, the Roosters took a 6-0 lead, but the champ climbed off the canvas to score a memorable solo try and steer the Knights to a 40-6 rout.
"The crowd at Marathon buzzed," league historian David Middleton wrote in his 2001 yearbook.
"They had witnessed the magic of Andrew Johns on countless occasions and they had seen him play with injury before, but this was something special."
The Roosters returned the favour in the next two years, knocking the Knights out of the finals with emphatic wins in 2002 (38-12) and 2003 (36-8) on their way to the first two of three successive deciders.
Another grand final awaits the victors on Saturday night.