Two points from the bye lifts Newcastle Knights above Wests Tigers on NRL ladder.

IT might be an optical illusion – and a temporary one at that.

But without kicking a ball at the weekend, the Knights climbed off the bottom of the NRL ladder, and their long-suffering fans will be hoping it stays that way for the rest of the season. 

The two points Newcastle banked for their round-15 bye might be a token, but they have nonetheless gravitated above Wests Tigers on for-and-against statistics.

The Knights have scored 210 points and conceded 351, for a differential of minus-141, compared to the Tigers (204 for, 370 against, minus-166). 

The Tigers, admittedly, have won one more game than Newcastle, three compared to two, and will receive their next bye – and a guaranteed two points – in three weeks.

By that time, the Knights will have had the chance to catch and overtake the Tigers in real terms.

The Tigers host Gold Coast at Campbelltown on Friday, and then the Knights tackle St George at Kogarah on Sunday.

On Sunday week, Newcastle host the Tigers on their annual mining day at McDonald Jones Stadium in what is shaping as a must-win game if the Knights are to avoid collecting a third straight wooden spoon.

FLASHBACK: Newcastle's only win last season was at home to the Tigers.

FLASHBACK: Newcastle’s only win last season was at home to the Tigers.

Newcastle can thank premiers Cronulla for still being within striking distance of the Tigers. 

Wests appeared certain to end a five-game losing streak when they led 22-14 with nine minutes to play at Shark Park on Saturday night. 

But then they imploded, conceding two tries to lose 24-22.

Instead of moving two wins clear of Newcastle, they now face a dogfight in front of what is likely to be Newcastle’s biggest home crowd of the season.

Newcastle won the corresponding game last year, 18-16. It was their only win all season.