Australian centre Dylan Riley was within fingertips of glory as the Panasonic Wild Knights almost snatched a dramatic victory against the Kobelco Steelers in Sunday's key Top League rugby match in Japan.
Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' men were forced to settle for a 13-13 draw in sodden conditions at Kobe's Universiade Memorial Stadium, but only after Riley was denied by inches as he chased a speculative kick in the final minute.
The ball just beat the former Australian under-20 international's lunge across the dead ball line, sparing Kobe but leaving the Wild Knights in the box seat to take the top qualifying position out of the white conference into the league's elimination series.
The outcome keeps the Wild Knights one point ahead of Kobe on the standings heading into the final qualifying round.
Former Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill enjoyed his second win of the season as his Ricoh Black Rams kept the NEC Green Rockets winless with a 37-15 win in Tokyo.
Former NSW Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels back Andrew Kellaway was a try-scorer for NEC.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper headlined Saturday's action with two tries as Toyota Verblitz bounced back from the previous week's loss to Suntory Sungoliath to beat the Mitsubishi Dynaboars 40-29.
Fellow Australian loose forward Liam Gill got on the try-scoring sheet as the NTT Communications Shining Arcs beat Munakata Sanix Blues, 40-21.
All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett provided Suntory's star turn for the second week running, popping up to score a 78th minute try which killed off a brave comeback by ex-Wallabies playmaker Bernard Foley's Kubota Spears.
Barrett's try allowed Suntory to go to 6-0 in the red conference with a 33-26 victory, after the previously unbeaten Spears had rallied from 7-26 down to tie the game.
Foley was yellow carded after collecting Barrett as he attempted a charge down and the moment proved pivotal as Suntory scored twice in his absence.
Fellow Aussie playmaker Quade Cooper was also yellow carded as his Kintetsu Liners fell to a 17-36 loss to the Toyota Automatic Loom Shuttles in the second-tier challenger final.
Despite a second-half try from Will Genia, the Nick Stiles-coached Liners were always on the back foot, with former England man Freddie Burns starring for the Shuttles, scoring 21 points.
Although defeated, Kintetsu are one of four teams from the tournament who have qualified for the first round of the Top League elimination series starting on April 17.