Western Force slipped to third in the National Rugby Championship after going down 33-28 to minor premiers Fiji Drua in the final competition round at UWA Sports Park.
Their bonus point try, scored after the siren, could prove crucial because it slightly opened the gap between the Force and fourth-placed Canberra Vikings to five points.
However, if the Vikings get a bonus point win over Brisbane City today and beat them by 24 points the Force will drop to fourth and be on a plane to Fiji for a repeat semi-final clash on Saturday afternoon.
If the Force remain third, they play away to Queensland Country.
The loss was a hard blow to take for the Force who looked to have the game under control for the first 35 minutes after getting off to a blistering start and controlling possession and territory.
But Fiji are not on top of the ladder and leading every statistical table that matters for nothing.
They were only able to produce glimpses of their exciting, free-flowing game, restricted by some intelligent Force tactics and tough defence.
But they did enough to scrape home despite being under intense pressure at the set piece where the Force scrum was again a potent weapon and forced a number of penalties and turnovers.
Only a couple of late errors stopped the Force from adding to their half-time 14-7 lead but once Fiji got ahead early after the break they could not be reined in.
Force coach Tim Sampson had called for patience and ball retention and his side produced plenty of both to frustrate the visitors who had to resort to an alien kicking game at times.
Sampson said his side lost a little momentum in the second period and should have converted the first half dominance into points.
“There was a little period in the second half where the Fijians got the momentum and they took advantage of it. You get that against a team as good as Fiji,” he said.
“It was good to see we executed what we had planned. We wanted to play and frustrate Fiji and they didn’t have it their own way for 60 minutes.
“It’s the nature of this competition that you can play anywhere but we’ve played well on the road and we’re comfortable with that.”
The Force opened with two tries from winger Rod Davies and centre Rodney Iona after tidy forward phase play and swift ball to the backs.
Davies raced away for his second after the break and fly-half Andrew Deegan sneaked over for the important late bonus point score. Captain Ian Prior converted three and Deegan knocked over his own effort.
Winger Levani Kurumudu, full-back Enele Malele and centre Apisalome Vota all scored a try apiece for Fiji with fly-half Alivereti Veitokani crossing twice. Four tries were converted.