Manawatu were denied victory at the death by a late converted try by Stephen Donald as Waikato snatched a 27-25 ITM Cup win in Palmerston North on Thursday.
Trailing 20-25 with just seconds left on the clock, Donald scored his second try by the posts to level the scores and the simple conversion left Manawatu shattered.
It was a cruel blow for the 13th-placed Turbos, who outplayed the Mooloo Men for large chunks of the game only to falter in the dying stages.
Donald again continued the impressive form he has shown since returning from injury to give the All Blacks coaches plenty to think about as he got across the whitewash twice and nailed all his shots at goal, bringing his personal contribution to 22 points.
The win lifted Waikato to a share of the competition lead on 40 points alongside defending champions Canterbury partway through the twelfth and penultimate round.
Tries: Foreman, Cruden, FitzGerald
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 2
Tries: Donald 2, Barnes
Cons: Donald 3
Pens: Donald 2
Waikato: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Sosene Anesi, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Malcolm Barnes, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Matt Vant Leven, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White (c), 2 Vern Kamo, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Kent Fife, 19 Zak Hohneck, 20 David Bason, 21 Christian Lealiifano, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.
Manawatu: 15 Shannon Paku, 14 Craig Clare, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Asaeli Tokoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hamish Gosling, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 James Oliver, 5 Fraser Stone, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Grant Polson.
Replacements: 16 Sean O'Connor, 17 Donal McNamara, 18 Reece Robinson, 18 Doug Tietjens, 20, Karl Bryson, 21 Isaac Thompson, 22 Casey Stone.
Referee: Chris Pollock