The Stirling Sports Premiership playoff race has undergone a huge twist after the front-runners all slipped up on Sunday.

Team Wellington, Waitakere United and Auckland City came into the day as the top three sides, but none could claim victory as the league ladder continues to compress.

For the first time this season, Auckland City sit outside the playoff spots, after a 2-1 defeat at Hawke's Bay United.

Clayton Lewis put the six-time champions ahead in the eighth minute, a lead Auckland held until 20 minutes remaining, when Sam Mason-Smith levelled proceedings. Harry Edge spurned a great chance to restore Auckland's lead, but Mason-Smith was more clinical, chipping home a classy winner in the 88th minute.


Auckland now sit in fifth, but are only four points off the leaders, and have two games in hand to make up their deficit.

They were leapfrogged by Hawke's Bay, who now sit in fourth on 23 points, a point behind both Team Wellington and Eastern Suburbs, who faced off in a clash with plenty of implications.

Wellington could have opened up a buffer atop the table with a win, but instead it was Suburbs who shone, re-discovering some of their impressive early season form with a 3-0 win.

The result leaves both sides a point behind leaders Waitakere, who also missed a superb chance to gain ascendancy, drawing 2-2 against Tasman United.

Tasman are bottom of the table but have been largely competitive, and they stunned the hosts by taking a two goal lead. In the end, Waitakere would have been thankful for at least a point, as goals to Scott Hilliar and Keegan Linderboom rescued a draw.

If the table wasn't congested enough already, it could have been more so had Canterbury managed to defeat eighth-placed Hamilton Wanderers, but instead, they needed a debatable late penalty to steal a 1-1 draw.

Wanderers took the lead in the 55th minute and held it until the 83rd, when a foul on the edge of the area was ruled to be a penalty.

Tom Schwarz converted for Canterbury, who are on 21 points, still within striking distance of the playoffs.

The Wellington Phoenix Reserves and Southern United meet tomorrow to close out the round. ​