Otago produced a resolute defensive display to ensure they will head into a home Mitre 10 Cup semi-final on the back of a 21-14 victory at Manawatu.
A run of three successive defeats had left Otago level on points with Wellington at the top of the Championship, but they stopped the rot in Palmerston North on Friday.
First-half tries from Tony Ensor, Matt Faddes and Adam Knight, together with a Scott Eade penalty, gave Otago an 18-7 advantage at the break, but Manawatu rallied after the interval.
Jamie Booth added to a first-half score from Ngani Laumape, with Otere Black adding the extras on both occasions, and Manawatu put Otago under severe pressure in the second 40.
The visitors stood firm, though, and hold a four-point lead over a Wellington side who could leapfrog them with a convincing victory over Waikato on Saturday.