An astute ACT Brumbies scored four tries and held off a late charge to beat the Melbourne Rebels 26-20 Sunday, sending Super Rugby AU down to the wire with one round left.
Rory Scott, Cadeyrn Neville and Tom Wright dotted down in the first half to hand them a 19-7 lead at the break with Bayley Kuenzle adding another in the second stanza.
The Rebels, burdened by two yellow cards, pushed hard to claw back in front of a home crowd, but the Brumbies defence held firm.
"Was a great match. I was really pleased with how we started in the first-half," said Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa.
"We knew the Rebels were going to come out hard (in the second-half), which they did. We felt like we were under pressure for the entire second-half. We were fortunate to come away with the points."
With Western Force dramatically pipping the NSW Waratahs 31-30 on Saturday, the Rebels must now beat the 'Tahs next weekend and hope the Perth team fall to the Queensland Reds, in order to make the play-offs.
If they lose, the Force will go through to meet the Brumbies, who were already assured of a berth in the May 1 qualifying final.
James O'Connor's Reds are unbeaten in seven games and await the winner of that clash having already sealed a place in the season-decider.
"They probably had every right to be 20 up (at half-time) given their territory, but the early try (in the second-half) gave us a bit of momentum," said Rebels skipper Matt To'omua.
"Ultimately though our discipline hurt us."
Hooker James Hansen gave the Rebels a flying start with a pick and go try after seven minutes, culminating a patient build up, with To'omua converting.
Folau Fainga'a, surprisingly left out of Dave Rennie's Wallabies training squad, thought he had a try soon after from the Brumbies' trademark rolling maul, but it was denied for a knock on.
Undeterred, they used the same tactic minutes later and this time Scott's maiden Super Rugby try was allowed, with Ryan Lonergan adding the extras.
The Brumbies dominated territory and the pressure paid off near half-time when Neville powered over, then Wright sliced through the defence minutes later to send them to the break 19-7 ahead.
Joe Powell struck back for the Rebels soon after the restart with To'omua converting then nailing a penalty to close the gap to two points.
But the comeback didn't last with Kuenzle getting the Brumbies' fourth against the run of play and they held for the win.