Update: 1:28AM Parramatta have held off a fast-finishing North Queensland to secure a scrappy 18-16 win in Friday's NRL clash and maintain their 100 per cent record at Parramatta Stadium.
Dominant for large spells of the game thanks to another masterful performance from Jarryd Hayne, the Eels hung on in the final five minutes as the Cowboys finished strongly.
A Michael Morgan try in the 78th minute proved to be too little too late as Paul Green's side slumped to their sixth straight away defeat of the season.
Hayne warmed up for Origin II by scoring a try and having a hand in two more as the Eels chalked up their seventh win of the season.
Will Hopoate did his hopes of returning to the NSW side no harm with a solid defensive display but a dropped pass just in front of the North Queensland line with less than a minute remaining set up a nervous finish.
The Eels will be wondering how they didn't wrap up the game earlier with Chris Sandow only converting one of four kicks.
Three tries in the opening 40 minutes from the hosts - scored by Junior Paulo, Semi Radradra and Ken Sio - did most of the damage with James Tamou going over for the visitors.
Hayne increased the advantage with a try just after the restart following some good work from Sandow and a smart offload from the giant Pauli Pauli.
However, it proved to be the last time Brad Arthur's side troubled the scorers as the Cowboys hit back through Antonio Winterstein and Morgan.
But it wasn't enough to deny Parramatta, who after two successive wooden spoons now find themselves two points off first place.
Despite the win, Arthur said his side will have little chance of progressing to the finals if they can't produce consistent performances over 80 minutes.
"We're a young team and we have to learn how to control a game," Arthur said.
"It was a game of lost opportunities. The pleasing thing is they dug deep ... and kept scrambling in defence, but we found a way to win; we just need to find a way to be better. We can't dish that up again.
"If we want to be a genuine threat in the competition we need to be better with our patience.
"If you play like that at the back end of the year you will struggle to win."
Green admitted his side left their run too late to win the game and said his four player involved in Origin - Matt Scott, Tamou, Brent Tate and Thurston - had struggled.
"We missed an opportunity; we need to start like that, not finish," Green said.
"We have to take our opportunities. I was worried about this game with our Origin players.
"I wasn't worried how they'd back up last week, but this week they were all a bit flat and it's up to the rest of the guys to have a better effort than tonight so we're not always reliant on those guys to produce."