Play-off bound Taranaki sealed a deserved 35-22 win over Auckland on Friday to move top of the Premiership division.
Four tries - from James Marshall, Berny Hall, Seta Tamanivalu and Charlie Ngatai - put Taranaki in command and they held off a late fightback from the visitors to pull clear and seal a bonus-point win.
Taranaki had gone 22-9 ahead at one point, but George Moala's try and some nerveless work from the boot of fly-half Gareth Anscombe made it a three-point game with 20 minutes to go.
However, Anscombe's opposite number Marty McKenzie was also in good form and kicked two late penalties to take the game away from Auckland, though a score from Anscombe with three minutes left looked to have sealed a losing bonus point.
But Ngatai intercepted a loose ball and charged for the line to give Taranaki a fine victory and top spot in the Premiership.
Auckland still have work to do if they are to make the play-offs, sitting fourth with 20 points to their name, five clear of Waikato with three games to go.