Waikato's late march towards a place in the Air New Zealand Cup play-offs continued on Thursday following a 33-22 win over North Harbour in Hamilton.
The four-try bonus point victory puts the Mooloo men in fourth position on the congested table, but that could all change at the end of Round Ten this weekend.
For North Harbour, after two back-to-back wins, the defeat extinguished any slim hopes they may have had about contesting the play-offs.
Waikato had a stong start with captain Liam Messam scoring in the first two minutes of the game and Callum Bruce slotting three successful penalties, while the visitors only had one Michael Harris penalty to show for their efforts at half-time (14-3).
North Harbour took first blood in the second half when full-back and skipper Jake McPhee jinked through a gap to open an clear path for George Pisi to race through and score.
But Waikato had other ideas and replied with two tries, the first to Tim Mikkelson who sped down the right-hand touchline after Sosene Anesi outwitted a scrambling Harbour defence.
Dwayne Sweeney was over for Waikato's third touchdown of the night when he collected a cut-out pass from Messam. Waikato, hunting a bonus point, almost paid a heavy price as Harbour countered with two tries of their own.
Ken Pisi could not believe his luck when Anesi dropped an inside pass from Sweeney at his feet for him to collect and score. Nafi Tuitavake was next, finishing off a backline move through a loose Waikato defensive line.
But All Black pivot Stephen Donald, who last played for Waikato in Round Five, stepped up in the 75th minute to seal the win after launching a crossfield kick for replacement winger Henry Speight to collect the loose ball and score.
Tries: Messam, Mikkelson, Sweeney, Speight
Cons: Bruce 2
Pens: Bruce 3
For North Harbour:
Tries: G Pisi, K Pisi, Tuitavake
Cons: Harris 2
Waikato: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Dwayne Sweeney, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Hikairo Forbes.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Jordan Smiler, 19 Matt Blain, 20 David Bason, 21 Roimata Hansell-Pune, 22 Henry Speight.
North Harbour: 15 Jack McPhee, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Hayden Abercrombie, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Harris, 9 Matt France, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Anthony Boric (c), 5 Filo Paulo, 4 James King, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Michael Mayhew, 1 Michael Reid.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 James Afoa, 18 Chris Smith, 19 Scott Uren, 20 Nalu Tuigamala, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Nafi Tuitavake.
Referee: Vinny Munro