Northland showed improvement again but were unable to pick up a win in their final pool match in the Ford National Hockey League.
They went down in a fighting effort 4-1 to Auckland and now face the prospect of a playoff against North Harbour.
After going down by a combined 16-2 in their opening two fixtures against Canterbury and Central, they needed major improvement as they looked to take on powerhouses Auckland.
Auckland had accounted for both Canterbury and Central previously which added to the difficulty of the task for Northland.
Things looked like they were heading the same direction as their first two matches after Joe Crooks opened Auckland's account after just five minutes.
However, Northland showed toughness on defence to restrict Auckland's scoring opportunities.
And when they went on the attack, Northland looked dangerous.
They tied things up in the 18th minute when Josh Down found the back of the net to liven the contest up.
Auckland bounced back quickly, however, and Hamish McGeorge re-established Auckland's lead four minutes later.
Northland kept Auckland honest after that and found themselves just the one goal down going into the half time break.
They started the second half in much the same vein as they ended the first as Auckland looked to push on with their lead.
Northland eventually succumbed to the pressure Auckland applied as Crooks scored his second of the day.
Northland continued to fight to the finish as they showed they could be a nuisance on defence.
Auckland added a fourth goal late in the piece through McGeorge again as Northland tired.
The game ended 4-1 after a much improved effort. However with the prospect of facing North Harbour in the playoffs, more gains will need to be made quickly.