Melbourne have moved to within a game of successive NRL grand finals after surviving an almighty scare from Parramatta and securing an 18-16 win in their qualifying final at AAMI Park.
The minor premiers were expected to cruise into the preliminary finals but had to claw their way back from a 10-4 halftime deficit that almost put a major dampener on the celebrations for skipper Cameron Smith's record 356th NRL match.
Melbourne have a week off while Parramatta next weekend will play the winner of Sunday's elimination final between North Queensland and Cronulla.
After cruising through their past few rounds with top spot locked in coach Craig Bellamy said the tight win could be a blessing given the games ahead.
"We hadn't had a close game for a while so I wouldn't say it's the game we needed but ... I think there will be a few learnings from that," Bellamy said.
The Storm started strongly with a try to speedster Josh Addo-Carr but lost their way with the sin-binning of Cameron Munster in the 17th minute for a professional foul after tackling Kenny Edwards from an offside position.
The Eels scored two tries while Melbourne were a man down to set up their six-point halftime lead.
Halfback Mitchell Moses, who has been integral in their charge to the finals since crossing mid-season from Wests Tigers, set up the second when he flicked a no-look pass for exciting young fullback Will Smith to run through a hole.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur described the loss as a "missed opportunity".
He was upset the referees never used the bunkers for two of the Storm's three tries.
"The boys showed plenty of want, plenty of desire and we showed we're good enough," Arthur said.
"No one gave us a chance and we showed that we're good enough."
The Storm started the second half in a similar fashion to the first to regain the lead, with the ball passing through 13 sets of hands on the last tackle before Felise Kaufusi touched down.
Billy Slater then crossed for their second four minutes later after Addo-Carr kicked a ball through into the in-goal for the veteran fullback.
Two conversions and a penalty kick by Smith let the Storm open up a 18-10 lead but they couldn't shake Parramatta, who set up a thrilling finale when winger Semi Radradra scored in the 66th minute.
Two Parramatta players - Manu Ma'u and Daniel Alvaro - were put on report, which could hinder the Eels' finals hopes.
Smith, who was honoured with a medal by the NRL for his milestone, said the match showed the competition was wide open.
"It showed we're not out in front of anyone by a great distance - we won by two points," Smith said.
"We're not talking that it's our premiership to lose. I can guarantee you that."