The Highlanders have been left with work to do to sneak into the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals following the Hurricanes' surprise loss to the Force in Perth last night.
The Force needed a win in their regular season finale to give themselves a shot at eighth place, and did it by upsetting the Canes 27-22 after leading at halftime.
It puts the Force (4-10) a point ahead of the Highlanders in eighth, with the Kiwi side now needing a point from their final match against the Rebels in Melbourne today to earn a quarter against the Blues next Saturday night in Auckland.
It was the Canes' second defeat in their last six matches, which sees them finish at 8-6 on 39 points, a point ahead of nearest pursuers the Waratahs.
The Blues, who sealed top spot last week, put out a second string side against the Waratahs in Sydney but still managed a last-gasp 20-17 win to extend their winning streak to 13 games.
Earlier, the Chiefs held off Fijian Drua in a thrilling finish to lock up a home quarter-final with a 35-34 victory in front of a passionate crowd in Fiji.
The win moved the Chiefs into third place in the standings behind the Crusaders, a position they were able to hold onto after the Brumbies were stunned 32-22 by Moana Pasifika in Auckland.
Moana Pasifika got the better of the Brumbies in front of their fans at Mount Smart Stadium, despite skipper Sekope Kepu being shown a red card for a high tackle in the 11th minute.
The Crusaders secured second spot with a 28-15 win over the Queensland Reds in Christchurch on Friday to set up a rematch with the same opposition at the same venue next week.
The Chiefs will host the Waratahs in Hamilton, while the Hurricanes will travel to Canberra to take on the fourth-place Brumbies.
Although the jockeying for the final playoff positions was the main business of round 15, it was the teams rooted to the last two spots in the standings who arguably displayed the most passion.
Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika entered Super Rugby for the first time this season but Covid travel restrictions prevented them from playing in front of their own fans for much of the campaign.
A sell-out crowd of more than 11,000 turned out to support Drua in their first game in Fiji's second city of Lautoka on Saturday and they roared their heroes to within a whisker of a stunning upset.
Western Force 27 (Santiago Medrano, Andrew Ready, Byron Ralston tries; Ian Prior 2 cons, 2 pens, Michael McDonald con)
Hurricanes 22 (Josh Moorby 2, Brayden Iose, Salesi Rayasi tries; Aidan Morgan con)