After their record 50-16 win against Canberra at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night they climbed into the top eight for the first time this season.
Their hold on eighth place was to last less than 24 hours, though, after both North Queensland and Gold Coast won their 25th-round matches on Sunday.
The Cowboys were on the road facing Cronulla, which had handed the high-flying Sydney Roosters a 32-22 defeat last Monday night. The Sharks couldnt back up going down 18-31.
The Titans, pipped by the Vodafone Warriors 24-22 in the 24th round, were expected to succumb to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium but caused a major upset by winning 30-22.
With Newcastle beating Brisbane on Friday night it means four teams are now chasing the final two spots in the top eight with Newcastle going into the last round in seventh spot on 27 points (plus 58 points), the Cowboys eighth on 26 (plus 48 points), the Titans ninth on 26 (minus 17 points) and the Vodafone Warriors 10th on 26 (minus 50 points).
Of the four contenders three are in action in the final round next Saturday. First its the Vodafone Warriors facing the 15th-placed Dragons at WIN Stadium in Wollongong (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT), followed by the Titans taking on fourth-placed Melbourne at AMII Park (5.30pm local time; 7.30pm NZT) and finally the Cowboys at home to the 14th-placed Wests Tigers (7.30pm local time; 9.30pm NZT). On Sunday, Newcastle hosts last-placed Parramatta (3.00pm local time; 5.00pm NZT).
The Vodafone Warriors will need to create history to stay alive. While they beat the old Illawarra Steelers in Wollongong in 1996 theyve never beaten the Dragons there.
They gave themselves a chance of staying in the race when try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei and Shaun Johnson both scored hat-tricks in a storming display against the Raiders in their final home game of the season at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.