Canberra's rugged defence added more headaches for Penrith as the Raiders stormed to a 30-12 win at Equex Centre on Saturday.
Gone is the leaky defence from the past two seasons and in it's place is a desperate defensive unit chalking up the wins in 2019.
The Raiders have now won six of their eight games so far, with their only losses against Melbourne and Manly.
Defensively coach Ricky Stuart was thrilled with Canberra's efforts.
"That's probably what I've been most happy with today," he said.
"We had John Bateman go off and changes in the outside backs with BJ (Leilua).
"It was a real tough one and they're the ones that count, ones like that are very valuable."
In front of near sell-out crowd of 10,079 in Wagga, the Raiders made the most of their opportunities while the Panthers didn't.
Canberra opened the scoring after 10 minutes when an early Sam Williams grubber kick was pounced on by Michael Oldfield, a late replacement for Joey Leilua who woke up with a stiff neck.
Four minutes later Nathan Cleary almost levelled things but he couldn't quite chase down James Maloney's grubber kick.
The Panthers had another great chance to equalise when Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was sin binned on their own line but then lost Isaah Yeo with a dislocated shoulder and couldn't come up with any points.
They had another good chance five minutes later after a powerful run from Viliame Kikau, which ended John Bateman's day with a suspected fractured eye socket, only for the Panthers second rower to lose the ball five metres out in the play the ball.
Despite being a man down, Jack Wighton created an overlap off a wraparound play to double Canberra's lead after 27 minutes.
Stuart thought the sin-bin period changed the game.
"I reckon that wins us the game today," he said.
A late penalty goal gave Canberra a 14-0 lead at the break meaning Penrith needed to score the first points of the second half and did when Nathan Clearly capitalised on a raft of possession on the Raiders line to score nine minutes into the half.
They then lost Kikau to an ankle injury before Temora junior Liam Martin dropped a chance to score his first NRL try when he couldn't reel in a Clearly kick.
It ended up being a 12-point turnaround as the Raiders marched down the field off the back of a penalty, conceded by Martin and Maloney, and scored through Nicoll-Klokstad after a strong run from Nick Cotric.
It took the wind out of the sails for the Panthers.
They went further ahead with another Croker penalty goal before Hudson Young went over for his first NRL for a 28-6 lead with seven minutes to play.
Panthers captain James Tamou scored off the restart and it looked like the strong crowd at Equex Centre could have been in for a nervous few minutes when Penrith went up for another try two minutes later only to be denied by the video referee.
In the end it was the Raiders who finished things off with Croker's third penalty goal to see them maintain their place in the NRL's top four.