Auckland beat Counties Manukau 25-22 to claim an uninspiring win in Thursday's ITM Cup crossover match at Eden Park.
The home side's third straight win moves them into second place on the Premiership standings.
In an uninspiring spectacle place kicking dominated the opening proceedings and it wasn't until the 31st minute that fans were treated to any real action when Sherwin Stowers crashed over for the opening try of the match.
Sensing they had an overlap, Counties chanced their arm and decided to run the ball out of their own 22. After making metres down the left flank, the ball was then spun the other way as Tim Nanai-Williams fed Ahsee Tuala who got on the outside of his man and raced down the wing before passing inside to David Bason.
The Counties halfback was dragged down short of the line, but from the ensuing ruck the ball was sent quickly through the hands as Stowers burst onto it at pace and dived over the whitewash to score.
Steelers pivot Baden Kerr then gave his side the lead with a conversion and stretched the score out to 16-12 in favour of the visitors with a penalty kick five minutes before half-time.
However Auckland fly-half Gareth Anscombe landed his fifth successful penalty kick after the hooter had sounded to narrow the gap to just a point at half-time.
After applying plenty of pressure to the Counties Manukau defensive line all game, referee McBride eventually had enough of the visitors' constant impeding and yellow carded Simon Lemalu early in the second stanza.
The decision had an immediate effect, as number eight Chris Lowrey took the ball from the back of a five metre scrum and passed to wing George Moala who cut inside two defenders and burrowed his way over the line to score.
Kerr and Anscombe continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over for their teams as Auckland held a 25-22 lead in the dying stages of game, before the visitors were awarded a penalty minutes from full-time.
Turning down a relatively easy kick at goal to draw the match, Kerr instead decided to kick the ball into touch to go for the try and the win, and it almost came off as Counties came within a whisker of scoring their first ever victory over Auckland at Eden Park.
After setting up a driving maul, the visitors inched their way towards the try line through their forwards and Lemalu appeared to have scored. But referee McBride said the ball was played by a player on the ground, awarding a penalty to Auckland as Anscombe booted the ball into touch to celebrate the victory.
Pen: Anscombe 6
For Counties Manukau:
Pens: Kerr 5
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Teddy Stanaway, 11 George Moala, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Nathan Hughes, 5 Steven Luatua, 4 Josh Townsend, 3 Charlie Faumuina/Nathan Vella, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Masoe, 19 Sam Henwood, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Winston Stanley, 23 Angus Ta'avao.
Counties-Manukau: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ahsee Tuala,13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Tasesa Lavea, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 David Bason, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 DJ Forbes, 6 Taiasina Tuifua, 5 Jamie Chipman (c), 4 Chris McLaren, 3 Matt Talaese, 2 Grant Henson, 1 Simon Lemalu.
Replacements: 16 Mark Price, 17 Jeremiah Fatialofa, 18 Adam Cathcart, 19 Mark Selwyn, 20 August Pulu, 21 James Semple, 22 Tyrone Lefau, 23 Peter Hale.