Auckland made hard work of their game against Otago, but still did enough to win 24-19 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The backline struggled to find the gaps in an Otago defence that shut down any line breaks quickly but in the end the Wayne Pivac-coached side managed to put enough together to get the win, however, their failure to get a four-try bonus point could prove costly.
The result means that if Canterbury pick up their expected win over Bay of Plenty on Sunday, Auckland will finish third if Wellington beat Taranaki on the same day, if Taranaki win with a bonus point they'll be second, but if they fail to get that extra point Auckland will get a home semifinal.
This loss for Otago also means that Counties Manukau have almost certainly finished top of the Championship and will be able to rest key players against Northland on Saturday.
Tasman should finish second in the Championship if they beat the winless North Harbour on Saturday, although they can come second if they get five points from this game and Counties come home empty handed from Whangarei.
It took just three minutes for Auckland to take the lead, through a Gareth Anscombe penalty but Otago's Hayden Parker was able to answer back soon after in the same fashion.
A couple of tries then quickly came with Auckland winger Dave Thomas touching down in the left corner as the visitors benefitted from being able to recycle the ball quickly.
Then after Parker's second penalty hooker Anderson Heather cut inside Charles Piutau for an Otago try.
Two Anscombe penalties made the score 14-13 to the Premiership side at the break.
Anscombe was unlucky not to have been awarded a try four minutes into the second half and it was a dubious call from the TMO to adjudge that Parker dragged one of his feet out of bounds in the act of grounding the ball.
The Chiefs-bound first-five added three more points for Auckland in the 50th minute after Hugh Blake was yellow carded for incorrect entry to stop a certain try.
Blake soon had company on the sidelines as Liaki Moli was also sinbinned for tackling Parker without using his arms.
Ten minutes from time there was a bizarre passage of play when there was a charged down kick and two intercept passes which resulted in Auckland fullback Charles Piutau scoring a try.
Dickson kicked a penalty to get Otago a bonus point for being within seven of Auckland's score but it is unlikely that this will have much of an impact on the Championship table.
Otago 19 (Sam Anderson Heather try; Hayden Parker 3 pens con, Glenn Dickson pen)
Auckland 24 (Dave Thomas, Charles Piutau tries; Gareth Anscombe 4 pens, con) HT: 14-13
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