Northern Districts captain Tom Green snapped a goal from the boundary in the final seconds to reduce the margin to 24 points.
Was it enough?
They couldn’t be sure for at least another 30 minutes.
Phone calls were made back and forth from Hollymount Park to Kully Bay to check the margins, as Bomaderry overpowered Port Kembla and Northern Districts fought back from a six-goal first-quarter deficit to lose 9.6 (60) to 5.6 (36) to Wollongong Bulldogs.
Only one of the two Tigers clubs would be left standing in the new top-six format, starting after the long weekend bye and it would come down to percentage, with both Northern Districts and Bomaderry at 3-5 on the ladder.
In the end, Northern Districts made it by 1.33 per cent, a points differential of 10 points, they would have qualified without the late goal, but even in defeat it reflected their determination to be among the big guns this year, after pushing the Dogs.
“We’re pretty proud, we wanted to make it,” coach Leigh Forsyth said. “There are tough games ahead every week now. But we’ve always had the attitude of wanting to play against the best teams, so we celebrated making it through.
“This is a really tight knit group and we want to challenge ourselves.”
Bomaderry, Port Kembla and Nowra-Albatross will play in division two against the top Kiama, Bulldogs and Lions reserve grade teams.
Elsewhere, Figtree pushed Kiama, going down by 14 points, as Shellharbour thrashed Nowra by 72 points.