Malone's drive to be champions hits a setback on the road
It didn't quite work out in the games of significance with Malone, City of Armagh, Rainey Old Boys and Omagh all losing when positive outcomes were really required.
Rugby round up Newsletter
Division 2A leaders Malone could have had the title sewn up if they had got the better of Highfield but, instead, ended up losing 26-24 in Cork and a win on Saturday - when they host Nenagh who need a point to finish fourth - will guarantee automatic promotion by finishing top of the pile.
Tries from Michael Cartmill, Andy Bryans and Danny Kerr saw Paddy Armstrong's men snatch the lead after trailing 19-7 only to come away with a losing bonus point in what was only their second defeat of the campaign.
City of Armagh were left reeling after losing 39-36 in injury time when hosting ninth-placed Galwegians. The shock defeat came Armagh's way after leading 31-19 at the break and means they have lost control of making the top four and now must win well with a bonus point at Greystones while Nenagh have to get nothing from Malone to hand Willie Faloon's squad a fourth-place finish.
Evan Cromie, Andrew Smyth, Neil Faloon and Ryan Purvis all scored tries for Armagh.
Elsewhere, Queen's University halted their losing run with a 35-30 victory at Nenagh which has secured sixth for the students and their place in the division.
In 2B, Rainey Old Boys lost 15-6 at home to Navan but should still be able to still finish second with a home play-off semi-final.
The Magherafelt side, who had unused Ulster sub Tommy O'Hagan on board now end their regulation season at champions Old Crescent who have yet to lose.
Belfast Harlequins - with dual status player Ricky Lutton on board - hammered already relegated City of Derry 56-17 at Deramore and scored eight tries, with Conor McAuley getting a hat-trick, as Quins continued their recent good form ahead of the play-offs to stay in 2B. Omagh's 13-7 defeat at Midleton means they now must aim to beat Bruff at home to secure a place in the top four after Scott Barr's second half try and Scott Elliott's conversion earned a losing bonus.
Bangor lost 11-6 at home to Seapoint which extinguished their hopes of making the top four but the losing bonus point at least ensured that they avoided being dragged into the relegation zone. Meanwhile, Instonians drew 24-24 at Ashbourne in the first of the AIL round-robin qualifier games.
Elsewhere, Ballymena IVs won the McCambley Cup, Lurgan lifted the Gordon West Cup while Dungannon IIIs and Ards IIIs claimed the Forster Cup and Butler Shield respectively.
2A: Armagh 36 Galwegians 39, Highfield 26 Malone 24, Nenagh 30 QUB 35 2B: Quins 56 Derry 17, Rainey 6 Navan 15, Gannon 21 Well 31, 2C: Bangor 6 Seapoint 11, Midleton 13 Omagh 7