The Stormers’ hopes of finishing as Super 15 league runners-up and securing a home semi-final were dented Saturday when they drew 19-19 with the Lions in a Cape Town thriller on Saturday.
Marnitz Boshoff converted a try by Malcolm Marx three minutes from time to tie the match.
But the stalemate eliminated the Lions from the title race, leaving conference winners the Stormers as the only South African contenders for the southern hemisphere championship.
Taking only two points from a match watched by a 34,000 crowd leaves the Stormers two points behind the Waratahs in the race for second spot with one round left.
Finishing second on the combined standings secures a one-week break after the league season followed by a home semi-final.
There is no break for the side coming third, though, as they host a play-off and, if successful, play away in the semi-finals.
The Stormers led the Lions three times only for the Johannesburg team to claw back and the visitors exerted tremendous post-siren pressure before committing a knock-on a few metres short of the try-line.
The home side played the last six minutes a man short after prop Steven Kitshoff was sin-binned.
“It was not the result we wanted,” admitted Stormers centre Juan de Jongh, who took over as skipper when No. 8 Duane Vermeulen withdrew injured just before the kick-off.
Lions skipper and No. 8 Warren Whiteley said: “We have missed out on the play-offs, but I am so proud of my team for what they achieved this season.”
Stormers started as favourites having won 11 of 12 previous Super Rugby clashes between the teams and were first to score.
Kitshoff was held up just short of the line and scrum-half Nic Groom grabbed the ball to score a try fly-half Demetri Catrakilis converted.
Lions scrum-half Faf de Klerk darted over in the corner and fly-half Elton Jantjies converted to restore equality.
A skip pass enabled Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds to score far out but Kurt Coleman, who replaced the injured Catrakilis, failed to convert.
The teams were level again when Lions prop Schalk van der Merwe barged over and the failure of Jantjies to convert meant the first half ended with the score tied at 12-12.
Fullback Cheslin Kolbe created the Stormers’ third try by gathering his chip and sending No.8 Nizaam Carr away for a score Coleman converted for a 19-12 advantage.
The Lions equalised again three minutes from time when hooker Marx scored a pushover try which Boshoff converted.