The State Central Stags broke a four-game State Shield one-day cricket losing streak with a 51-run win over the State Auckland Aces at Pukekura in New Plymouth -- but to no avail.
Leaders at the halfway stage of the competition, Central lost their way at the business end and went into today's game fourth on the table, reliant on a Canterbury loss if they were to make Wednesday's semifinal.
Canterbury didn't oblige, beating Northern by five runs, but Central Districts at least showed again what they were capable of, flaying the Northern Districts attack to compile 301 for eight after being sent in to bat at Pukekura Park.
A pivotal third-wicket partnership of 111 between opener George Worker and captain Mathew Sinclair provided the base for a solid Central win.
Worker was out in the 38th over with the score on 202 for three, driving the first ball of Steven Croft's first over straight to point, where Reece Young took a diving catch. His 86 came off 104 balls and included three sixes and eight fours.
Kieran Noema-Barnett departed just seven runs later, leaving Central Districts on 209 for four, but bringing new BLACKCAP Brendon Diamanti to the wicket.
Diamanti impressed with a snappy 25 off 18 balls before he was caught behind by Gareth Hopkins off Kyle Mills in the 44th over.
State MVP leading batsman Sinclair batted through, finishing unbeaten on 87 to leave Auckland a daunting target.
Croft was the best of the Auckland bowlers, finishing with three for 27 off four overs, while Chris Martin, Kyle Mills, Daryl Tuffey and Rob Nicol picked up one apiece.
Auckland didn't start well, losing opener Martin Guptill with the total on just 11 but still managed to score at over five an over while losing wickets regularly.
An 86-run stand for the sixth wicket between Nicol and Mills revived Auckland's hopes but once Nicol departed, bowled by Diamanti for 45 in the 41st over, the last four wickets fell for just 16 runs.
Diamanti, recently named in the BLACKCAPS squad for the Chappell-Hadlee series, was in outstanding form, finishing with figures of four for 34 off eight overs to record the game's best figures and moves into fourth place in the overall State Shield MVP rankings.
Auckland allrounder Mills proved his fitness for international duties, having been rested in recent rounds to recover from a knee niggle. He took one for 61 off his full complement , achieved a runout, and belted an unbeaten 57 off 51 balls.
Auckland finished the season last with just three wins.