Then there were two away spots remaining as the Waratahs beat the Reds 18-11 to seal a Super 14 home semi-final at the Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Then there were two away spots remaining as the Waratahs beat the Reds 18-11 at the Suncorp Stadium to seal a Super 14 home semi-final on Saturday.
Even after the Blues had edged past fellow countrymen the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Friday, the permutations at the top end were still very much in the air pre-kick-off.
However, the 'Tahs' overnight position on the cusp of the knockout stages had left their fate very much in their own hands in Brisbane, with all of their knockout rivals cheering on the Reds.
But first-half scores from forwards Dean Mumm and Wycliff Palu proved enough for glory while ending the Chiefs' faint hopes in Durban and also foiling the Reds' season hurrah.
Added to the cog-turning play-off permutations, there was also some extra spice thrown into the mix due to Lote Tuqiri downplaying the Reds' proud party-pooping style – if more bite was needed between these two Australian rivals.
And as expected there was some early niggle with the temperature continuing to simmer from the midweek shenanigans. Opposing stalwarts Phil Waugh and David Croft were the first to get the ball rolling at ruck-time before the long-armed Dan Vickerman and James Horwill exchanged pleasantries moments later.
Failing to get drawn away from their objective, the 'Tahs did have opportunities to draw first blood in a scoreless opening twenty minutes. But young Kurtley Beale was unsuccessful on either upright with two shots from 35 metres out.
However, fittingly the visitors called on their Mumm to sort out the squabbling as Lote Tuqiri's run and Waugh's know-how sent the big lock under the posts on 22 minutes – Beale adding the simple extras.
That only sparked the spoiling Reds into life though as they set about their crashing task – with the Blues keeping everything crossed in Auckland – and Clinton Schifcofske closed the gap five minutes from the interval.
Yet that three could and probably should have been quickly wiped following Horwill's high-shot on Beale, but once again the fly-half struggled to find his range from distance.
So, Ewen McKenzie's men turned to their power-play from attacking line-out ball in the final sands of half-time as Wycliff Palu pierced the close-range defence to race over and stretch the lead – the 'Tahs seemingly crashing the crashers.
The Reds were not going to go quietly into the Brisbane night though, and fresh from the interval Wallaby Berrick Barnes reduced the arrears with a snap drop-goal on 45 minutes – getting the seated Blues edging ever forward.
And the hosts would have been encouraged by how the game momentum began to tilt in their favour with just one score the difference.
Then controversy struck the Suncorp as a succession of fumbles led to wing Peter Hynes having a one-one-one down the left before probable glory.
However, referee Matt Goddard adjudged a knock-on and then pinned prop Rodney Blake for non-use of the shoulder in quick succession – upsetting the baiting crowd.
However, the Waratahs weathered the sustained storm and thanks to a Quade Cooper error and Schifcofske's illegal hands, Beale found his range for two vital penalty goals with twelve minutes remaining.
Yet pride was very much the final challenge for the hosts and they got their reward through Hynes' well-taken collect and score deep into injury-time – bringing a rise smirk to the home faithful.
Man of the match: Yet another honest performance from Phil Waugh against his old foe David Croft. The Wallaby was everywhere for the Waratahs and set up Mumm's try superbly to kick-start the play-off procession.
Moment of the match: The Reds were desperately keen to stay within touching distance going into the interval. However, Palu's charging run through a hole in close-quarters ultimately proved the difference in Brisbane.
Villain of the match: Surprisingly, no villains despite the words and hype of midweek!
Pen: Schifcofske 2
Tries: Mumm, Palu
Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Caleb Brown, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 David Croft, 6 Poutasi Luafutu, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Van Humphries, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Coutts.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Andrew Walker, 22 Charlie Fetoai.
Waratahs: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (c), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 David Lyons, 19 Will Caldwell, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Rob Horne, 22 Timana Tahu.
Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Touch judges: James Leckie (Australia), Damian Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Assessor: Wayne Erickson (Australia)