The Crusaders left it until late to secure a 25-17 victory over the Hurricanes to set up a home Super Rugby play off.
The Crusaders were leading by a point and under heavy pressure from a determined Hurricanes team in the closing stages before Tom Marshall scored a break away try to give the home side breathing space.
Winger Zac Guildford scored a try early in the first half before scrumhalf Andy Ellis and winger Tom Marshall added second half tries which secured the Crusaders' 11th win in 16 matches.
, in the first half, in the second, scored tries which clinched the Christchurch-based - their fifth in succession - to ensure the seven-time champions will finish fourth at the end of the regular season.
The Crusaders will play the fifth-placed side, which is likely to be either the Reds or the Cheetahs, in Christchurch in next weekend's quarterfinals.
The Crusaders needed one more try for a bonus point which would give them a chance of displacing defending champions the Chiefs from first place in the conference.
The Chiefs play the Blues in their last regular season match on Saturday and are assured of finishing atop the conference, although their second place overall is still under threat.
In the face of vigorous defence from the Hurricanes, the Crusaders never looked like achieving the fourth try they needed to threaten the Chiefs' hold on top spot.
In fact, they looked an average team far from assured of reaching the final for the 10th time in 18 years.
The Crusaders were largely outplayed by the Hurricanes who matched their three tries - with tries to backrowers Victor Vito and Brad Shields and winger Julian Savea - but who failed to improve on their 11th placing entering the final round.
A handful of critical refereeing decisions went the Crusaders' way and were enough to tip the match in their favor. Guildford was offside when he hacked the ball ahead on an 80-meter kick and chase that led to the Crusaders' first try.
Ellis was also offside when he fetched a knock-on from a teammate to score the second try and to give his team a crucial 18-10 lead after 51 minutes.
The Hurricanes closed to 18-17 with Savea's try in the 16th but when they pressed the Crusaders goal-line through the final minutes, they were twice turned back by contentious penalties.
All Blacks flyhalf Daniel Carter, who scored 25 points in last weekend's 43-15 win over the Chiefs to surpass 1,500 points in Super Rugby, kicked 10 points on Friday but was ineffective in general play.
The Crusaders' forwards were matched by the Hurricanes in scrums and lineouts and outplayed at the breakdowns where their captain, backrower Kieran Read, fell well below his best.
Their backline was also rarely threatening against an organized and tenacious defense and all of the Crusaders' tries came from turnovers.
"That was not exactly what we wanted to put out on the field today," Read said. "But we'll take a win and certainly take the (home) game next week.
"We stuck at it. Sometimes you have to win games like this and a win was what we were after."
Final Score Crusaders 25 (13) Hurricanes 17 (5)
Tries - Z.Guildford, A.Ellis. T.Marshall
Pen - D.Carter 2
Con - D.Carter 2
Tries - V.Vito, B.Shields.J.Savea
Con - A>Taylor
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1:Garratt Williamson
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO : Glenn Newman
1. Wyatt Crockett ,2. Corey Flynn ,3. Owen Franks ,4. Tom Donnelly ,5. Sam Whitelock,6. George Whitelock ,7. Matt Todd ,8. Kieran Read (c),9. Andy Ellis , 10. Dan Carter ,11. Zac Guildford ,12. Tom Taylor ,13. Ryan Crotty ,14. Tom Marshall ,15. Israel Dagg
Replacements : 16. Ben Funnell ,17. Joe Moody ,18. Jimmy Tupou , 19. Luke Whitelock , 20. Willi Heinz ,21. Tyler Bleyendaal , 22. Telusa Veainu
1. Ben Franks ,2. Ash Dixon,3. Ben May,4. Jeremy Thrush,5. James Broadhurst,6. Brad Shields,7. Karl Lowe,8. Victor Vito ,9. TJ Perenara,10. Beauden Barrett,11. Julian Savea, 12. Reynold Lee-Lo,13. Conrad Smith (c),14. Alapati Leiua / Matt Proctor,15. James Marshall
Replacements : 16. Reggie Goodes,17. John Schwalger,18. Blade Thomson,19. Faifili Levave,20. Chris Smylie,21. Ope Peleseuma,22. Matt Proctor / Andre Taylor.