Northland ended 31 years of pain at Carisbrook by beating Otago 13-8 in a tense national provincial rugby championship match in Dunedin today.
A late try to captain Jared Payne snared victory for the visitors, who haven't won at the southern venue since 1979.
That run looked like continuing as an Otago side who largely dominated possession and territory fought back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to lead 8-3 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
However, a second penalty to Northland winger Lachie Munro was followed by the game's decisive moment in the 73rd minute when a cutout pass from veteran first five-eighth David Holwell gave space to their three key strike weapons.
Centre Rene Ranger found Munro free on the left flank and he sent an inside ball to fullback Payne to keep the Northlanders well in the hunt for a semifinal berth.
The result ends the struggling Otago's two-match winning burst, their narrow defeats of Hawke's Bay and Tasman followed today by a performance marred by some shonky lineout work and inability to take advantage of long periods on attack.
A penalty to replacement first five-eighth Hayden Parker and try to lock Hayden Triggs, both midway through the second spell, marked their best period of play.
Otago tighthead prop revelation Halani Aulika was again impressive, along with dynamic No 8 Adam Thomson, but they couldn't hold out a Northland side who always threatened out wide.
Flankers Dan Pryor and Dean Budd also continued outstanding campaigns for the winners, who face crucial mid-table matches against Counties Manukau and Waikato in coming weeks.