The Warriors got the gritty pre-finals workout they wanted with a 20-16 win over Canberra in a milestone night for the Kiwi NRL club.
With man of the moment Simon Mannering watching on injured, the Warriors did enough in the second half to win a bruising affair in front of a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium on Friday.
Halfback Shaun Johnson slotted two penalties to edge the hosts clear in the dying stages.
It was similar to when the teams met in round three, when Johnson's two late field goals steered them home 20-19.
The result rocketed the Warriors from eighth to fifth early in the final round of the regular season, but they dropped to sixth after Penrith beat Melbourne 22-16.
Having won four of their last five games, they could yet host a finals match in Auckland but they need the Dragons and Broncos to lose.
The arm-wrestle nature of the match was fitting for workhorse Mannering, who became the first player to notch 300 matches for the Warriors.
His involvement in their first play-off campaign in seven years is in doubt, however, after exiting soon after halftime with a sternum injury.
Coach Stephen Kearney said Mannering was in serious pain but tipped he would be "wheeled out" against whoever they face next week.
Kearney described his team's performance as jittery, particularly in the closing stages.
"I don't know if there's a bit of tightness there which sort of took grip of everyone with six or seven minutes to go, but we found a way to keep them out which is a positive. It's an area we need to improve."
It was also an emotional night for the Raiders, who farewelled forwards Shannon Boyd and Junior Paulo, along with five-eighth Blake Austin.
It was the eighth game Canberra have lost by less than six points this season.
Coach Ricky Stuart was content with their finish to the season, which featured wins over the Rabbitohs and Roosters before "turning up" against the Warriors.
"It's not in the jumper, it's not in these players here to give up," he said.
"Unlike some other teams outside the eight that were going out and getting flogged, and not turning up for their last one or two games, that's not in us."
Canberra twice appeared to cross in a thrilling final seven minutes but halves Austin (knock-on) and Williams (obstruction) were both denied tries by the bunker.
Earlier Canberra struck first when a Sam Williams 40-20 set up the opening try to Josh Papalii.
Solomone Kata and David Fusitu'a then put the Warriors up with unconverted tries before Williams levelled the halftime score at 8-8 with a penalty.
Fusitu'a's try came via an outrageous no-look flick pass from centre Peta Hiku, extending the winger's competition-leading try tally to 22.