Bay of Plenty's 24-22 win over Southland at Mt Maunganui secures them a probable home quarter-final provincial championship and leaves the Stags having to beat Canterbury next Saturday if Invercargill's to host its first playoff in 12 years.
Bay of Plenty scored only three points in the second half to Southland's 14 and nearly lost when Southland's replacement first five-eighths Robbie Robinson just missed a dropped goal attempt with four minutes to go.
But a strong first half and ability to retain possession in the closing minutes saw them home.
Both sides scored three tries and Bay of Plenty led 21-10 at half time.
They're fourth on 28 points, one behind their next opponents Hawkes Bay, who play second-placed Canterbury in Christchurch on Saturday night. Southland have 25 points.