Luckless Wellington stand on the verge of relegation to the ITM Cup championship following a 55-7 thrashing at Counties Manukau.
Counties themselves had been facing the drop prior to the seven-try rout at Eco-Light Stadium in Pukekohe, but will now consider themselves as play-off hopefuls.
Augustine Pulu crossed twice in the first half and Tim Nanai-Williams did likewise in the second period off the bench, while Frank Halai produced his second stunning performance on the trot as he battles to earn a New Zealand recall.
A seemingly serious arm injury to Ronald Raaymakers was the only downside for Counties. Bottom side Wellington, meanwhile, are 12 points adrift of nearest rivals Counties with three games left to play.
Elsewhere, North Harbour edged out Hawke's Bay 28-25 in dramatic fashion and championship leaders Manawatu won 22-20 at Waikato.
Accuracy with the boot proved crucial in the game between Manawatu and Waikato.
Joe Webber scored the only try of the first half as Waikato went in 11-6 ahead at half-time before Jason Emery forced his way over in reply within three minutes of the start of the second half.
Poor discipline around the ruck from Manawatu's Michael Fitzgerald saw him sin-binned, and he was indebted to his team-mate Otere Black, who slotted over three penalty goals to secure an away win.
Mathew Berquist converted Brendon Edmonds' late try to set up at grandstand finish for Hawke's Bay at North Harbour, but the home side stood firm to grab a thrilling win.
A tight finish looked unlikely when North Harbour raced into a 25-3 lead through tries from Luke Devcich, Matt McGahan and Matt Vaega.
However, two tries in as many minutes from Ellery Wilson and Robert Fruean kick-started a stirring Hawke's Bay comeback that ultimately fell just short of clinching the most unlikely of wins.