Newcastle have endured a horror warm-up for their first NRL finals campaign in seven years, thrashed 36-6 by in-form Gold Coast at CBUS Super Stadium on Friday.
The Knights' hopes of hosting a first home final in 14 years have been dashed after the Titans rounded out their season with an impressive ninth win of 2020.
The hosts' victory included a brilliant individual try-scoring double by young fullback AJ Brimson and means Gold Coast end the season in ninth place, on the back of a club-record equalling five game winning streak.
Newcastle on the other hand haven't won back-to-back matches since round 15 and will be sweating on the availability of star forward Jacob Saifiti for their elimination final against South Sydney.
That game will now be played at ANZ Stadium and not in Newcastle after the Rabbitohs thumped the Sydney Roosters to move into sixth above the Knights.
"Wake up call? It's an alarm that I've heard a few times. Not ideal leading into the finals definitely," Knights coach Adam O'Brien said
"That performance, and me carrying on about it, it ain't going to help us next week.
"We've got to find a way to bounce into the joint and come out with a real plan to make the most of our season next week."
Saifiti was placed on report in the first half for a crusher tackle on Titans centre Young Tonumaipea.
Under an NRL crackdown, the offence carries a minimum one-game ban even with an early guilty plea, meaning if Saifiti is charged he'd need to challenge and win to play in next weekend's knockout final.
Despite the lure of a home final, the Knights were comprehensively battered by the Titans on a humid evening at Robina.
Ash Taylor completed his redemptive 2020 campaign with a try-scoring double while Brimson was scintillating in a display in front of Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters.
The 22-year-old Brimson, who was laid up for the first half of the season with a fracture in his back, scored a 95 metre runaway try in which he left Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga grasping at thin air.
His second was just as sensational, stepping and weaving past several Knights' defenders to score.
If his maiden Origin jersey was in any doubt before the game, Brimson now looks the answer to the Maroons' backline injury woes.
"I just had a go at him for being selfish and not playing until half the year's done," Titans coach Justin Holbrook joked.
"He plays earlier and we're playing next week."
While the Knights search for answers before next week's finals, Holbrook's only disappointment was that their exciting finish to the season is over.
"I'd love to be playing next week," he said.
"It just took us a while to get going didn't it?
"But to finish the way we have, we couldn't have done any better."
Australian Associated Press