The Chiefs have narrowly edged out the Highlanders 38-34 in a try-fest at the Queenstown Events Centre on Saturday.
Both sides scored five tries but it was the perfect boot of Stephen Donald which decided the final result.
Donald kicked five-of-five conversions and knocked over one penalty goal in his personal haul of 13 points.
With just four rounds of the Super 14 remaining, Saturday afternoon's clash between the two struggling sides meant the winner was almost assured to move into the next round while the loser effectively eliminated.
It was a high quality fixture as neither side was lacking intensity, with free-flowing attack the feature of the game in which both sides recorded a four-try bonus point.
The Highlanders were having it all go their way in the opening exchanges until an injury break brought play, and the momentum, to a stand-still.
All Black James Ryan went down in agony after stepping off his left foot and had to be stretchered off field, the knee injury looking serious.
And the Chiefs were first to score in the 16th minute when Sione Lauaki went for a dart down the right wing and offloaded in the tackle to Niva Ta'auso who recorded the five-pointer.
But a piece of individual brilliance from Lucky Mulipola locked-up the score at 7-7 after the lightning-fast winger completed a 50-metre run to the line.
Mulipola was back in the action in the 25th minute, setting up a try for Anton Oliver after out-jumping Roy Kinikinilau to collect a Jimmy Cowan bomb.
The see-sawing affair continued after the re-start, Kinikinilau making up for his defensive lapse with a bustling run through a gap before linking with Sitiveni Sivivatu who stole the lead back for the Chiefs.
It was end-to-end rugby heading into halftime but it was the boot of Donald which gave Waikato the edge, with a 17-12 buffer at the split.
The Chiefs continued where they left off in the second 40, Lelia Masaga proving too quick on the wing after receiving a pin-point cut-out ball from a huge overlap.
But true to the quality of the game, Otago struck right back in the 50th minute after Nick Evans toed through a loose ball before Viliame Waqaseduadua chipped it further and outran the defence to re-gather and cross the whitewash.
Sivivatu scored his second of the afternoon just minutes later with a powerful run through some lagging defence, putting Waikato up 31-22 with just under 30 minutes remaining.
Matt Saunders continued the try-fest in the 57th minute with a 60-metre run off the back of a turnover.
A Toby Morland try stole the lead briefly for the Highlanders before Masaga scored his second of the game in the 70th minute to put the visitors back in front.
Otago poured on the pressure over the final 10 minutes but the Chiefs muscled-up in defence to secure the win.
Chiefs 38: Tries; Niva Ta'auso, Sitiveni Sivivatu (2), Lelia Masaga (2). Cons; Stephen Donald (5). Pen; Stephen Donald.
Highlanders 34: Tries; Lucky Mulipola, Anton Oliver, Viliame Waqaseduadua, Matt Saunders, Toby Morland. Cons; Nick Evans (3). Pen; Nick Evans.
Halftime: Chiefs 17-12