The Dogs flogged the under-strength premiers 46-20 at Telstra Stadium but an incident in the first half had echoes of controversies last weekend.
Bulldogs captain Steve Price forced his way over the tryline in the 20th minute but video referee Steve Clark disallowed the try.
"I can't believe you didn't give me that try," Price said to referee Paul Simpkins after the game.
But the major error - highlighted by television coverage - appeared to be the tackle count being restarted on tackle five. Replays indicated the Bulldogs should have had four more plays on which to score - not one, as they were given.
While Penrith were counting the cost of injury and suspension, the Bulldogs were welcoming back the final piece in what they hope will be a premiership jigsaw. Teenage Kiwi prodigy Sonny Bill Williams was involved only sporadically last night - but it was enough to indicate he may be a key figure during the finals.
It was Williams's first game back in the top grade after missing most of the season with an ankle injury, and he celebrated with an eye-catching attacking display in the first half.
The Bulldogs had to work hard for their 12-8 half-time lead even though the Panthers were missing Ryan Girdler, Joel Clinton, Ben Ross, Joe Galuvao, Luke Swain and Frank Pritchard.
But in the second session, the Belmore side went on the rampage, scoring six tries to two with centres Willie Tonga and Jamaal Lolesi each joining halfback Brent Sherwin in registering doubles.
Steve Folkes's side is now on top of the table - pending the Sydney Roosters' clash with Melbourne at Olympic Park tomorrow - and have won eight games in a row.
Despite their disadvantages, Penrith had raced to an early 8-0 lead, winger Amos Roberts booting a penalty goal and then converting centre Luke Lewis's 10th-minute try.
Depleted through injury and suspension, Penrith were doing well and managed to hold out the Bulldogs with some determined defence.
In the 25th minute, Panthers second-rower Shane Rodney was penalised for a lifting tackle on Dogs halfback Sherwin.
It obviously did Sherwin little harm - he went on to score two tries in quick succession.
The first came after a pass from prop Price near the posts in the 29th minute, the No.7 diving over and winger Hazem El Masri adding the extras.
The next came just five minutes later, Sherwin's chip kick regathered by Williams who passed back to the playmaker 15 metres out, El Masri goaling again.
Williams was making his presence felt, streaking into the clear and flick-passing to fellow substitute Roy Asotasi shortly before the break.
The raid was pulled up for a forward pass - a borderline call based on replays.
Penrith's hopes looked forlorn when second-rower Andrew Ryan crossed four minutes into the second half, with winger Matt Utai sneaking over in the corner from a Braith Anasta overhead pass soon after.
Queensland Origin star Tonga used his increasingly famous sidestep to beat Panthers five-eighth Preston Campbell in the 58th minute for his first four-pointer and then was on hand to score when Wesser fumbled a bomb five minutes later.
That left the score at 34-8, Penrith lock Trent Waterhouse scoring a consolation try before the rout resumed with Lolesi crossing out wide with 10 minutes left. El Masri's goal brought up 40 points for the home side.
Campbell made amends for his defensive error by crossing under the posts in the dying minutes of the match but it was scant consolation for his side, which could lose its place in the top four if Melbourne beat the Roosters.
Bulldogs 46 (Sherwin 2, Tonga 2, Lolesi 2, Ryan, Utai tries: El Masri 7/8)
Panthers 20 (Lewis, Waterhouse, Campbell tries: Roberts 4/4)
|Fullback||1.||Luke PATTEN||1.||Rhys WESSER|
|Wing||2.||Hazem EL MASRI||2.||Amos ROBERTS|
|Centre||3.||Jamaal LOLESI||3.||Luke LEWIS|
|Centre||4.||Willie TONGA||4.||Paul WHATUIRA|
|Wing||5.||Matt UTAI||5.||Luke ROONEY|
|Five-Eighth||6.||Braith ANASTA||6.||Preston CAMPBELL|
|Halfback||7.||Brent SHERWIN||7.||Craig GOWER (c)|
|Front Row||8.||Mark O'MELEY||8.||Tony PULETUA|
|Hooker||9.||Adam PERRY||9.||Luke PRIDDIS|
|Front Row||10.||Steve PRICE (c)||10.||Martin LANG|
|Second Row||11.||Willie MASON||11.||Danny GALEA|
|Second Row||12.||Andrew RYAN||12.||Shane RODNEY|
|Lock||13.||Tony GRIMALDI||13.||Trent WATERHOUSE|
|Bench||14.||Dennis SCOTT||14.||Frank PULETUA|
|Bench||15.||Corey HUGHES||15.||Richard FA'AOSO|
|Bench||16.||Roy ASOTASI||16.||Ben POMEROY|
|Bench||17.||Sonny Bill WILLIAMS||17.||Ben ROGERS|
|Coach||Steve FOLKES||John LANG|