Auckland have kept their chances of back-to-back Mitre 10 Cup titles alive with a 35-11 win over Taranaki in New Plymouth.
The win means a Canterbury victory over North harbour would see Auckland through to the semi-finals.
Both sides got on the board through early penalty kicks, taking the score to 3-3.
But it was the home side who crossed the line first, hooker Ricky Riccitelli found the try-line after a rolling maul to the Bulls into the lead.
Auckland worked their way back into the match, loose forward Dalton Papali'i scoring the visitors first try.
The Auckland forwards got to work in the second half, allowing flanker Adrian Choat to power over the line from close range, taking the lead out to 15-11.
Papali'i was sent to the sin bin in the 51st minute for multiple infringements, giving Taranaki the chance to hit back with a one-man advantage.
But the champions' defence stood up, forcing turnovers and handling errors.
Two late Harry Plummer penalties took the lead out to 10 points, putting the pressure on Taranaki to score twice to win the game.
The visitors' staunch defence stood up over the final minutes, and Salesi Rayasi sealed the game with a 76th-minute try, taking the score out to 28-11.
Fullback Jordan Trainor scored in the 82nd minute to secure the bonus-point win.
The loss puts Taranaki's fate in the hands of Manawatu, a win over Counties Manukau would see the Turbos go through to the playoffs.