Taranaki took a large stride towards a home Premiership semifinal with a 35-22 victory over second half specialists Auckland before 7611 at New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium.
They took the lead from Canterbury, winning their sixth match in a row and their first over Auckland since Scott Waldrom was in his pomp in 2011.
In the clutch they were more composed than the jumpy Aucklanders, who coughed up the ball at the wrong time and often the wrong place. First five Marty McKenzie sealed it with a nicely taken pot with his (weaker) left foot, and Charlie Ngatai had the last say with an intercept try for the bonus point.
Auckland got the dry track they have been seeking for the last few weeks, but also a Taranaki team fully charged for the occasion.
Wing George Moala, a tricky customer to contain at the best of times, ignited the comeback with a try typical of his physicality and swift feet. Taranaki were incurring the wrath of referee Glen Jackson, and the habitual Auckland second half revival was in full swing. Until the last 8-10 minutes.
Auckland were well served by first five Gareth Anscombe, in slick form with the ball and off the tee, and No 8 Peter Saili. Taranaki No 8 Blade Thomson led the way for the victors.
The pack battle was rugged, absorbing, and mostly even. However, Taranaki did get excited about one hefty first half shunt on Auckland ball. They also won another critical scrum penalty from which McKenzie extended the lead late on.
The home side uncorked a superb early lineout move which went something like this: James Broadhurst won the ball, fed Thomson coming round the blind, who fed hooker Rhys Marshall. Try.
Those who like a good counter attack would have purred at Berny Hall's try, latching onto some sterling work by James Marshall, Waisake Naholo and Seta Tamanivalu. When the latter also bumped over, Taranaki had posted three tries in 33 minutes against a solid defensive outfit.
Taranaki has a good eight-day break before they travel to Wellington, while Auckland will host old rivals Waikato at Eden Park on Thursday night.
Taranaki 35 (Rhys Marshall, Berny Hall, Seta Tamanivalu, Charlie Ngatai tries; Marty McKenzie 3 con, 2 pen, DG) Auckland 22 (George Moala try; Gareth Anscombe con, 5 pen) HT: 22-9
The 500 club
Auckland No 10 Gareth Anscombe became the fourth player to hoist 500 points for the union, and he did it in just 37 games.
The 50 club
Lock James Broadhurst, a key cog in the Taranaki engine room, raised his half century of games for the union, and was again a sought-after lineout target.