Auckland remain on course for an Air New Zealand Cup semi-final after seeing off Counties-Manukau on Sunday.
Auckland remain on course for an Air New Zealand Cup semi-final after recording a clinical 37-14 win over Counties-Manukau at Eden Park on Sunday.
But the crucial bonus-point was not clinched until loose forward Peter Saili crashed over for the locals' fourth try at the death.
It kept Auckland on the fringe of the play-offs in sixth place and licking their lips ahead of a virtual “quarter-final” in the final round against fifth placed Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday. The winners may well creep into the semi-finals.
For Auckland it would be the reward for some rejuvenated late-season form, having won three on the trot since a stinging loss to Tasman.
Things looked dicey at times, leading just 10-7 at halftime after playing with the aid of a decent breeze.
They were still just 20-14 up with 15 minutes remaining before All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino and Saili crossed late.
Auckland dominated first half territory and fullback Paul Williams scored early but a lack of breakdown security kept their battling opponents in the picture.
Counties-Manukau scored the games' two best tries, team efforts midway through each half which were both finished by Tim Nanai-Williams. The second saw the talented fullback chip and regather superbly, capping a fine game in which he scored all the visitors' points.
Flanker Onasa'i Auva'a dived over in the left-hand corner soon after the break to give his side breathing space while Auckland's chances were helped by perfect goal-kicking.
First five-eighth Ash Moeke landed his four shots while his replacement Gareth Arlidge slotted three from three.
Tries: Williams, Auva'a, Kaino, Saili
Cons: Moeke 2, Arlidge 2
Pens: Moeke 2, Arlidge
Tries: Nanai-Williams 2
Cons: Nanai-Williams 2
Auckland: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Benson Stanley (captain), 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Atieli Pakalani, 10 Ash Moeke, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Onosa'i Auva'a, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Andrew van der Heijden, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Gareth Arlidge, 22 Chay Raui.
Counties-Manukau Steelers: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Dean Cummins, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Tasesa Lavea
(captain), 9 Notise Tauafao, 8 Waka Setitaia, 7 DJ Forbes, 6 Fritz Lee, 5 Rees Logan, 4 Alepini Olosoni, 3 Tuaefe Palelei, 2 Ilaisa Maasi, 1 Simon Lemalu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Holloway, 17 Kojak Faioso, 18 Jamie Chipman, 19 Ryota Asano, 20 Samisoni Fisilau, 21 Seremaia Tagicakibau, 22 Ahsee Tuala.
Referee: Ben Skeen