The Highlanders finally delivered the performance that they had been promising all season when they edged the Hurricanes 44-49 in Wellington.
The Highlanders outscored the Hurricanes by six tries to five in what is the Highlanders third victory of the season.
The result moves the Highlanders off the bottom of the Super Rugby standings - above the Southern Kings - as they took five points from the match and the Hurricanes took two bonus points.
An outstanding first-half performance by flyhalf Colin Slade, who created two tries and kicked 15 points, gave the Dunedin-based Highlanders a four-try bonus point and a 32-13 lead at halftime.
Their lead peaked at 35-13 but the Wellington-based Hurricanes stormed back with four second-half tries to threaten a come-from-behind victory.
Tries by winger Hosea Gear and flanker Elliot Dixon in the 65th and 67th minutes helped the Highlanders to a 27-49 lead before the Hurricanes fought their way back into the match with the help of two yellow carded Highlanders.
Earlier, Slade created a 95-metre try for backrower Mose Tuiali'i in the 15th minute and put in an expert chip kick that led to a try to scrumhalf Aaron Smith in the 26th minute.
Those tries and others to center Tamati Ellis and winger Kade Poki helped the Highlanders to a decisive lead at halftime.
The Hurricanes hit back with tries to prop Ben Franks and winger Julian Savea, while the Highlanders were reduced to 14 men by Smith's sin-binning in the second half.
Those tries closed the lead to 35-27 but the Highlanders rebuilt their advantage with tries to Gear in the 65th minute and Dixon in the 67th.
Gear's try was his 38th in Super Rugby, making him the third-highest try-scorer among active players after the Stormers' Bryan Habana and his Highlanders teammate Ma'a Nonu.
The Hurricanes trailed 49-27 but again rallied with tries to replacement scrumhalf Chris Smylie and lock James Broadhurst to cut the lead to five points with seven minutes remaining.
The Highlanders were again reduced to 14 men in the final moments of the match.
The Hurricanes took two bonus points from the match but were left in 11th place ahead of their last-round match against the Crusaders, likely ending the tenure of coach Mark Hammett.
Hammett has coached the Hurricanes for three years, to eighth-, ninth- and 11th-place finishes and now may not have a case for reappointment.
Final Score Hurricanes 44 (13) Highlanders 49 (32)
Tries - A.Dixon, B.Franks, J.Savea, C.Smylie, J.Broadhurst
Pen - B.Barrett 3
Con - B.Barrett 4
Tries - M. Tuiali'i, T. Ellison, A.Smith, K. Poki, H.Gear, E.Dixon
Pen - C.Slade 3
Con - C.Slade 3, H.Parker 2
Cards - A.Smith (yellow 53rd min), B.Murray (yellow 54th min)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 2:Richard Kelly
TMO : Glenn Newman
1. Ben Franks ,2. Ash Dixon,3. Ben May,4. Jeremy Thrush,5. James Broadhurst,6. Faifili Levave,7. Karl Lowe,8. Victor Vito ,9. TJ Perenara,10. Beauden Barrett,11. Julian Savea,12. Reynold Lee-Lo,13. Conrad Smith,14. Alapati Leiua,15. James Marshall
Replacements : 16. Reggie Goodes,17. John Schwalger,18. Mark Reddish,19. Brad Shields,20. Jack Lam,21. Chris Smylie,22. Matt Proctor
1. Tony Woodcock,2. Liam Coltman ,3. Ma'afu Fia ,4. Brad Thorn (c) ,5. Josh Bekhuis,6. TJ Ioane ,7. Elliot Dixon ,8. Mose Tuiali'i ,9. Aaron Smith ,10. Colin Slade ,11. Hosea Gear - vice-captain ,12. Tamati Ellison,13. Shaun Treeby ,14. Kade Poki ,15. Ben Smith
Replacements : 16. Andrew Hore (vc),17. Bronson Murray,18. Jake Paringatai ,19. Joe Wheeler ,20. Fumiaki Tanaka (12) ,21. Hayden Parker,22. Buxton Popoalii