It was never pretty and wasn't all that convincing, but the Wollongong Vikings grabbed the last remaining finals berth after escaping with a 15-15 draw against Kiama on Saturday at Vikings Field.
Trailing 15-10 for most of the second half, the Blueys were camped deep inside their opponents' territory for long periods but repeatedly failed to crack Kiama's desperate defence.
Vikings finally broke through with winger George Rixson's try in the dying seconds.
Michael Maidment missed the sideline conversion but the Blueys still celebrated, knowing their season was still alive.
"We knew it was always going to be hard from start to finish and it turned out that way," Vikings co-coach Shane Frigo said.
"We always aim to play for that full 80 minutes and not give up. The message went out with about two minutes to go that we only needed a draw.
"We spoke earlier in the week how important those two bonus points against Uni were last week, and that's what got us through."
The Cows were shattered after being so close to their first finals appearance in 10 years.
They had repeatedly denied the home team despite being reduced to 13 men for a crucial stage of the second half when two players were sin binned.
Both teams went into the season-ending clash knowing that the winner would advance to the playoffs.
The Blueys were two points ahead on the ladder and needed only a draw to claim fourth spot.
That seemed unlikely when the Cows carved out a 15-0 lead after 25 minutes.
Andrew Barrett got the Blueys on the board with a try next to the posts just before half-time, while Maidment kicked a simple penalty goal early in the second half to make it 15-10.
Kiama defended their line with everything they had and were within touching distance of victory, only for Rixson to crash over at the death and break their hearts.
"We were always positive. We knew if we stuck to our game plan and our structures that we'd eventually get there, but we certainly did it the hard way," Frigo said.
Vikings will meet Camden in this Sunday's minor semi-final at Vikings Field.
Minor premiers Avondale take on University in Saturday's major semi-final at Camden Rugby Park.
"It's a new competition now," Frigo said.
"I'm sure all four sides are thinking that. We're definitely not just there to make the numbers up, that's for sure. We know we deserve to be there and we're happy to be there."
Avondale finished the regular season with a 55-0 rout of Shamrocks, University cruised to a 76-0 road win over Shoalhaven, while Tech Waratahs beat Bowral 42-5.
Final ladder: Avondale 73, Uni 67, Camden 51, Vikings 49, Kiama 47, Shamrocks 39, Tech Waratahs 25, Shoalhaven 10, Bowral 4