The Cowboys will head into the finals as the form team in the competition having strung together six successive victories since the club announced Neil Henry's contract wouldn't be renewed at the end of the season.
The injury-hit Titans faced the mammoth task of beating Melbourne at AAMI Park and hope other results went their way.
And John Cartwright's side almost pulled it off until Cooper Cronk's golden point field-goal broke their hearts to make it three years without an appearance in the finals.
While the Titans went down with their heads held high, the same couldn't be said for the Warriors who surrendered meekly to a St George Illawarra side that went into the game at Wollongong on the back of six straight losses.
Coach Matt Elliott was fuming with his side's performance after they went down 19-10 at WIN Stadium, accusing his players of not having the right attitude to grind out wins in tight games.
"The disappointing fact is that it's not just about the winning and losing, it's a final reminder that our season has been determined by the frame of mind we show up in at times," Elliott said. "We are a better group of people than that and we're a better team than that. We've got some work to do."
Saturday's results mean Newcastle are assured of a place in the finals without kicking a ball.
Wayne Bennett's side will now face Parramatta on Sunday knowing a win will guarantee them seventh spot.
Should they lose to the bottom-placed Eels they will stay in eighth and meet either Canterbury or Cronulla next weekend.
The NRL has announced that on Friday South Sydney will open the finals series at ANZ Stadium against either Melbourne or Manly.
If the Sea Eagles beat Penrith at Brookvale on Sunday they will secure third spot and play the Rabbitohs.
The second leg of the double header will see minor premiers Sydney Roosters take on whoever finishes fourth.
The Sharks will open the double header with their elimination final clash at Allianz Stadium, with their opponents determined by how they fare against Canberra on Sunday evening.
A win will see them finish fifth with a loss keeping them in sixth spot.
NRL FINALS WEEK ONE
7.45pm Fri, Sept 13 at ANZ Stadium
South Sydney v Manly/Melbourne
4pm Sat, September 14 at Allianz Stadium
Cronulla v Newcastle/Nth Qld
7pm Sat, September 14, at Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters v Manly/Melbourne
4pm Sun, Sept 15, at ANZ Stadium
Canterbury v Newcastle/Nth Qld.