WANGARATTA Rovers were forced to dig deep in the final quarter to beat Yarrawonga by 19 points at W.J. Findlay Oval on Saturday in the Ovens and Murray Football League under-18 competition.
The Pigeons led narrowly at every change until the Hawks unleashed a three goal to nil final term to end any chance the Pigeons had of sneaking into a double-chance spot before finals.
Yarrawonga is resigned to finishing in fourth with two matches remaining.
The Pigeons are four points and a healthy percentage gap behind third-placed Wangaratta which went down to ladder leader Albury by 38 points at Albury Sportsground.
Yarrawonga plays Wodonga, which is out of finals contention, and Albury in the last two rounds.
The Pigeons were well served by Travis Hargreaves, Nathan Cook, Brady Pritchard and Damon Symes and held a two-point lead going into the final quarter against the Hawks.
Wangaratta Rovers were without mid-fielder Dylan Wilson, who made his senior debut but had enough good players including Dylan Stone, Brad Collihole and Josh Schonafinger to scrape over the line.
Mitch Kilner and Dylan Chung kicked three goals each for their respective teams.
Albury broke away from Wangaratta in the second half to stay on top.
It led by 15 at half-time before Dylan McDonald, Caleb Simmonds, Cody Parker and Billy Higgins ensured another win.
Lavington and North Albury will meet in a mini elimination final on Saturday after both recorded wins on Saturday.
The Panthers accounted for Wodonga Raiders by 75 points and the Hoppers beat Corowa-Rutherglen by 35 points.
The Panthers are sitting in fifth spot by four points and percentage ahead of the Hoppers, who are surging late in the season with the return of key personnel from injury.
Lavington had two standout forwards in Jacob Cincurak and Kevin McDonald, who booted four goals each, and other good performers in Lauchlan Corrigan, Brayden Grimmond and Aidan Rogers.
Clay Moscher-Thomas, Matthew Endresz, Blake Cogdell were prominent for the Hoppers.
Wodonga recorded its fourth win of the season with a 10-point victory against Alpine Eagles.