The Panthers started well with an intercept try to five-eighth Preston Campbell after just 8 minutes of play.
But the Cowboys hit back 7 minutes later after a clever grubber kick by club debutant Brett Firman was forced by Josh Hannay and the Cowboys reduced the panthers� lead to just 2.
The Cowboys then flexed their muscles to score successive tries from halfback Brett Firman and centre Josh Hannay in the space of 8 minutes to take a 12 point lead.
Matt Bowen made a mockery of the Panthers� defence with a 90 metre try just 8 minutes from halftime, and winger Ty Williams strolled through some effortless defence to give the Cowboys a commanding 30-6 lead at the break.
The Panthers gave some joy to the small number of supporters on hand in Townsville with an early second half try to winger Luke Lewis, to reduce the deficit to 18 with half an hour remaining.
Although Penrith crossed late with a try to hooker Luke Priddis, it was all a consolation, and five-eighth Johnathon Thurston confirmed the result by scoring under the posts to give his side a much needed 2 competition points.
The Cowboys secured a much needed 2 points and keep their top 4 prospects well and truly alive. As for the Panthers, 2006 couldn�t come quick enough.
Cowboys v Panthers match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 38 Tries:Hannay 2, Firman, Bowen, Williams, Thurston Goals:Hannay 7 PENRITH PANTHERS 18 Tries: Campbell, Lewis, Priddis Goals: Wesser, Campbell 2
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium Crowd: 18,932 Referee: Sean Hampstead Half time: Cowboys 30-6
Live commentary: Round 20 of the NRL continues tonight from Dairy Farmers Stadium with the Cowboys playing host to the Panthers. The Cowboys can strengthen their opportunity for a top 4 finish come finals time with a win tonight. While the Panthers are playing for nothing more than pride after a disappointing season to date.
0 min: KICKOFF!
5 min: NEWS-Strong defensive start from both teams with the scores locked at 0-0.
8 min: TRY-Panthers Preston Campbell takes an intercept and runs 90 metres to score out wide. Conversion successful from Rhys Wesser. Panthers 6-0
15 min: TRY-Cowboys Josh Hannay scores off a grubber kick from new Halfback Brett Firman. Conversion unsuccessful from Josh Hannay. Panthers 6-4
19 min: TRY-Cowboys Brett Firman crosses under the posts off a clever ball from Aaron Payne. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 10-6
25 min: PENALTY GOAL-Cowboys Josh Hannay adds the points from 30 metres out directly in front after a high tackle from Joel Clinton. Cowboys 12-6
28 min: TRY-Cowboys Josh Hannay scores under the posts after a Brett Firman bust with some excellent support play. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 18-6
32 min: TRY-Cowboys Matt Bowen runs 90 metres to score after an outstanding kick return and some fragile Panthers defence. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 24-6
40 min: TRY-Cowboys Ty Williams runs through some poor defence from the Panthers and scores right on halftime. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 30-6
HALF TIME-Cowboys dominating every facet of the game and lead by a commanding 30 points to 6.
Second half underway at Dairy Farmers Stadium
48 min: TRY-Panthers Luke Lewis scores after a line break from Rhys Wesser. Conversion successful from Preston Campbell. Cowboys 30-12
56 min: NEWS-Both teams seem to have lost their way in attack with some very strong defence and pressure on the playmakers.
63 min:NEWS-Light rain now falling in Townsville, both sides will now need to control the ball and eliminate mistakes from their game. Still 30-12 in favour of the Cowboys.
67 min: PENALTY GOAL-Cowboys Josh Hannay is successful with the penalty after Craig Gower put a line drop-out out on the full. Cowboys 32-12
72 min: TRY-Panthers Luke Priddis scores under the posts and gives his side a consolation try. Conversion successful from Preston Campbell. Cowboys 32-18
76 min: TRY-Cowboys Johnathon Thurston runs through weak defence from Penrith and scores under the posts. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 38-18
FULL TIME: The Cowboys have returned to form with an emphatic 38-18 win over the hapless Penrith Panthers.In an outstanding debut from Halfback Brett Firman, the Cowboys have run in six tries to defeat a woeful Penrith outfit. ----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Bowen (Cowboys) 2 - B Firman (Cowboys) 1 - J Hannay (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------