Wharfedale performed the Great Escape a week early at Grantchester Road - four second half tries earned them a bonus point win that condemned Macclesfield Blues to the last relegation place in National One.
Despite having the luxury of one game left to play, the Green Machine ground down the Blood & Sand in a contest that could, at one point, have gone either way.
In a one-sided first half, Dale edged out Cambridge by a single Tom Barrett penalty, dead on to the posts from the 10 metre line, although the visitors had had most of the play.
Two minutes into the second period, though, Joseph Donkin touched down in the corner, and another Barrett penalty nudged them further ahead.
Then Simon Horsfall’s converted try stung Cambridge into action, and Mike Gillick and Martin Freeman reduced the arrears for a rousing finish.
Just six points behind after Albert Portsmouth’s conversion, the hosts were buoyed, but, in chasing what would have been only their fifth win of a disappointing campaign, they left the back door open for Ian Larkin to plunder Dale’s third.
With a fourth try likely to provide survival, it was forwards unto the breach, and Aaron Myers late, late score kept Dale up.
Cambridge director of rugby Rowland Winter, relieved to draw a line under this campaign, was afterwards looking forward to a new life in National Two.
FT - 12-28 HT - 0-3
Referee - Nick Cockburn
Attendance - 445
STAR MAN - Aaron Myers (Wharfedale)
Gillick, M Ayrton, Freeman, Hales, J Ayrton, Portsmouth, Dougherty, Fidler, Griffiths, Weaver, Marriott, Jenkins, Conquest, McComb, Hipwell
Replacements - Palmer, Dunn, White, Harry, Bellamy
Whaites, Davies, Donkin, Gray, Horsfall, Barrett, Gough; Steele, Graham, Tampin, Brown, Rhodes, Mason, Wareing, Myers
Replacements - Dickenson, Larkin, Burnett, Woodhead, Prell
Tries - Gillick 53, Freeman 60
Conversions - Portsmouth 61
Tries - Donkin 42, Horsfall 50, Larkin 79, Myers 80+5
Conversions - Barrett 51
Penalties - Barrett 21, 47
Steve Jackson, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and The Rugby Paper