When the Warriors collapsed in an untidy heap against the Highveld Lions, the Ram Slam play-off line-up was settled: the Cobras will travel to Durban to face the Dolphins on Wednesday.
The Warriors needed the win to edge past the Cobras, but Dwaine Pretorius (3-19 off three) and Eddie Leie (4-32) crushed their hopes decisively. And their hopes would have been high after they had bowled well to restrict the Lions to 127-9. The Warriors, though, could muster just 106.
For the Warriors, Basheeru-Deen Walters had done the damage at the top of the order, including the wickets of Rassie van der Dussen (5) and Alviro Petersen (14). He ended with 3-21, while Andrew Birch (2-25) and Sisander Magala (2-34) weighed in with crucial wickets. Only Dominic Hendricks dug win with 35 off 38 (4×4), although Bjorn Fortuin boosted the total with 13 off four balls (2×6)
In reply, the Warriors were five down for 34 in the eighth over. There was a flicker of hope when Christiaan Jonker (45 off 30; 2×4, 4×6) and Clyde Fortuin (13) put on 49 at almost nine an over for the sixth wicket, but once that was broken, the tail fell away.
In Benoni, Andre Russell put on a magnificent one-man display to help the Knights to only their third win in the series, beating the Titans by four wickets with 25 balls remaining.
The big West Indian took 4-11 and slammed 66 off 28 balls to engineer a four-wicket win over the runaway leaders who had cemented their place in the final after a run of eight straight wins.
They looked keen to go for the ninth, naming a full-strength team, and were at one stage well placed to achieve it, holding the Knights to 72-5 after 11 overs, despite an opening surge from Rilee Rossouw (17) and Reeza Hendricks (18) which put on 29 in 22 balls for the first wicket as they chased a target of just 137.
Then Russell stepped up, slamming four fours and seven sixes and carrying the Knights through to a thrilling, yet deflating, win.
The Knights were seeking not only their third win of the series, but nurturing the hope that if the Highveld Lions fell, they would escape the wooden spoon.