The equation eventually proved beyond them but Northern Knights are still in the hunt for the Men's One-Day cricket playoffs after their match with Otago Volts ended in a dramatic tie at Whangarei's Cobham Oval.
Needing 14 off the last over Kane Williamson, who marshalled the chase for 275 with an unbeaten 87 from 84 balls, and some lusty hitting from a fortuitous Bradley Scott, carried the home side to 274 for seven as Otago's attack barely held their nerve.
Williamson, who had earlier figured in a 113-run stand for the third wicket with captain James Marshall, clipped Warren McSkimming's opening delivery to the square leg fence before scrambling a two and a single to leave former Otago representative Scott to complete an assignment that seemed beyond Northern once they lost five for 26 in 25 balls from the 43rd over as the asking rate hovered above eight runs per over.
Scott rode his luck throughout his 19-run cameo. He owed his solitary six to Darren Broom over- balancing on the boundary's edge, and the same fielder then dropped him off McSkimming's fourth ball, enabling Scott to score another two runs.
Fortunately for Broom, whose brother Neil had anchored Otago's 274 for five with a sublime 123, Scott was unable to score the three required to steal a remarkable victory.
Both sides had to be content with two points, meaning Northern Districts remain in the top four and Otago relinquish top spot to Canterbury, who took maximum points at the Basin Reserve.
Otago looked set to maintain their lead with two rounds remaining once Broom's second domestic one-day century was backed up some tight bowling, particularly from New Zealand pace bowler Ian Butler.
Daren Stevens and Broom added 125 for the fourth wicket, the English import playing the secondary role with a still brisk 39 from 42 balls.
Broom brought up his half-century from 58 deliveries with just two boundaries before stroking five more, and three sixes, during an energetic 119-ball stay.
Left-arm spinner Anton Devcich was the only frontline bowler to avoid serious punishment, his 10 overs costing a respectable 36 runs.
Northern made a solid start to their chase through Brad Wilson, who scored 55, and BJ Watling, 37, before Williamson and Marshall ensured wickets were conserved through the middle stages.
However the home side entered the last 10 overs needing 81 and anxiety levels mounted when Marshall was bowled by Butler for 64 and pinch hitter Peter McGlashan only managed four before Butler struck again at the death to end with the impressive figures of three for 42 from 10 overs.