A weekend of NPC semi-final rugby dominated by comebacks has pitted Canterbury against Auckland in a powerhouse title-decider for the Premiership division.
Counties-Manukau will host Otago in the second-tier Championship division final on Friday but most interest will centre on Christchurch a day later when Canterbury chase a fifth successive NPC crown.
It would be their 10th in total although that is eclipsed by all-time leaders Auckland, who haven't reached a final since clinching their 16th title in 2007.
Since then the competition has become a Canterbury benefit although the red and blacks nearly came unstuck in a thrilling semi-final against Taranaki on Saturday, pulling away in extra time to win 51-27 after the scores were locked 27-27 at fulltime.
Missed conversions by Beauden Barrett of two Taranaki tries in regular time left the door open for Canterbury, who surged home through tries in extra time to All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett - his second - captain George Whitelock and loose forward Jordan Taufua.
Whitelock was relieved his team found another gear.
"We went to sleep a wee bit in that second half, we thought the wind was going to do it," he told Sky Sports.
"I'm proud of the boys, we had to dig really deep in that extra time."
Hours later Auckland were equally lethal late in the game, scoring three tries to overturn an eight-point deficit against Wellington and win 33-22.
Young centre Malakai Fekitoa bagged two of them to maintain the hosts' terrible record in the playoffs and grant captain Daniel Braid the chance to play his 100th match for Auckland in the final.
"We were underdogs coming down here and we just dug in deep," Braid said.
"Not knowing what I'm doing next year and knowing I was one game away from the ton for Auckland, which will be an amazing milestone, that's why I'm so emotional."
Earlier, Counties Manukau and Otago both came from behind to win high-scoring Championship semis.
Top qualifiers Counties Manukau trailed Southland 20-6 after half an hour before bouncing back to prevail 48-23 while Otago were 13 points down against Tasman in Dunedin before fighting back for a 41-34 win.