The 27-22 victory concluded a day of drama in the final round of the regular season and sent the Force above the Highlanders into the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.
The Highlanders only need to avoid defeat against the Melbourne Rebels in Sunday's last match of the round, however, to leapfrog the Force and earn a quarter-final fixture against the Blues at Eden Park next week.
The Blues, who sealed top spot last week, put out a second string side against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney but still managed a last-gasp 20-17 win to extend their winning streak to 13 games.
Earlier, the Chiefs held off Fijian Drua in a thrilling finish to lock up a home quarter-final with a 35-34 victory in front of a passionate crowd in Fiji.
The win moved the Chiefs into third place in the standings behind the Crusaders, a position they were able to hold onto after the Brumbies were stunned 32-22 by Moana Pasifika in Auckland.
Moana got the better of the Brumbies in front of their fans at Mount Smart Stadium, despite skipper Sekope Kepu being shown a red card for a high tackle in the 11th minute.
The Crusaders secured second spot with a 28-15 win over the Queensland Reds in Christchurch on Friday to set up a rematch with the same opposition at the same venue next week.
The Chiefs will host the Waratahs in Hamilton, while the Hurricanes will travel to Canberra to take on the fourth-place Brumbies.
Although the jockeying for the final playoff positions was the main business of round 15, it was the teams rooted to the last two spots in the standings who arguably displayed the most passion.
Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika entered Super Rugby for the first time this season but COVID travel restrictions prevented them from playing in front of their own fans for much of the campaign.
A sell-out crowd of more than 11,000 turned out to support Drua in their first game in Fiji's second city of Lautoka on Saturday and they roared their heroes to within a whisker of a stunning upset.