Auckland kept in touch with Tasman and Canterbury at the ITM Cup summit after they beat Otago 35-29 with a try bonus-point at Eden Park on Sunday.
This was an improving Auckland's fourth victory out of six games this season, with their other two fixtures seeing them draw and suffer just the one defeat.
Unwanted All Black Charles Piutau opened their try account on eight minutes before openside flanker Mitch Karpik crossed seven minutes later to make it a 17-6 lead with Simon Hickey and Fletcher Smith having traded penalty goals.
Auckland weren't done before the break though as number eight Akira Ioane crossed. But flank Naulia Dawai went over on 32 minutes to give Otago hope.
Dawai would claim two further scores early in the second period that made it 27-24 to Auckland, however conversion misses were costing the southern outfit.
George Moala's try gave Auckland a cushion at 32-24 and despite Otago wing Jack Wilson crossing, Hickey landed a late penalty to secure the home victory.
Tries: Piutau, Karpik, Ioane, Moala
Con: Hickey 3
Pen: Hickey 3
Tries: Dawai 3, Wilson
Pen: Smith 3
Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 George Moala, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Jono Hickey, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Mitch Kaprik, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Sam Thomas, 17 Tom McHugh, 18 Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray, 19 Ben Nee-Nee, 20 Marcel Renata, 21 Mitch Hunt, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Taleni Seu.
Otago: 15 Tony Ensor, 14 Jayden Spence, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Michael Collins, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Josh Renton, 8 Mikaele Mafi, 7 Adam Knight, 6 Naulia Dawai, 5 Thomas Franklin, 4 Blair Tweed, 3 Hisa Sasagi, 2 Sam Anderson-Heather, 1 Craig Millar (c).
Replacements: 16 Sekonaia Pole, 17 Donald Brighouse, 18 Aki Seiuli, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Kaide Whiting, 22 Sio Tomkinson, 23 Teihorangi Walden.
Referee: Brett Johnson