Super Rugby champions the Chiefs survived a scare but came from behind to beat the Highlanders 21-19 in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Chiefs outscored the Highlanders by three tries to one but the visitors dominated possession and also led for most of the match.
The Chiefs needed a converted Charlie Ngatai try ten minutes from full time to take the lead.
All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden played a crucial role in the match as he helped create, then convert, Charlie Ngatai's try with 11 minutes remaining.
The Hamilton-based Chiefs came from behind in a match which saw four lead changes to post their second-straight win at the start of a season in which they are trying to win their third consecutive title.
The Highlanders were leading 14-19 when flanker Liam Squire split their defensive line with a rampaging run.
From the breakdown, Cruden put in a pinpoint cross-field kick which found winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma, who turned the ball infield for Ngatai to score.
Cruden's conversion was only his third success from five attempts but separated the team and consigned the Dunedin-based Highlanders to their first loss after they opened their campaign last week with a win over the Blues.
The Highlanders to take a 16-7 lead to halftime before the Chiefs the tightened their game, holding the ball for longer periods and scoring tries through Liam Messam and Ngatai to take the game.
"We went into the sheds (at halftime) with the Highlanders having a bit of momentum and we wanted to try to wrest that off them early in the second half," Cruden, the Chiefs co-captain, said. "I think we were able to do that at periods."
Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga turned the Highlanders' territorial advantage into points on Saturday, succeeding with five out of five shots at goal a conversion and four penalties for 14 points.
Sopoaga gave the Highlanders an early lead with a second-minute penalty but the Chiefs forced the first lead change with a try to winger Tim Nanai-Williams, converted by Cruden, in the 10th minute.
The Highlanders regained the lead with a try to flanker John Hardie after 31 minutes and, with a conversion and penalty to Sopoaga, took a nine point lead to halftime.
The Chiefs narrowed the gap with Messam's try in the seventh minute of the second half but were five points behind when Sopoaga added his last penalty.
Cruden then conjured a try for Ngatai and added the conversion to clinch the match.
Both teams have a bye next week so they get some rest. The Chiefs will appreciate the break the most as they have a worrying injury list already.
Final Score Chiefs 21 (7) Highlanders 19 (16)
Tries - T.Nanai-Williams, L.Messam, C. Ngatai
Con - A.Cruden 3
Tries - J.Hardie
Pen - L.Sopoaga 4
Con - L.Sopoaga
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 1:Garratt Williamson
Assistant Ref 2:Brendon Pickerill
1. Pauliasi Manu,2. Mahonri Schwalger,3. Ben Tameifuna ,4. Michael Fitzgerald,5. Matt Symons,6. Nick Crosswell,7. Tanerau Latimer ,8. Liam Messam,9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow,10. Aaron Cruden (c),11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma,12. Charlie Ngatai ,13. Robbie Fruean,14. Tim Nanai-Williams ,15. Mils Muliaina
Replacements :16. Rhys Marshall,17. Jamie Mackintosh,18. Josh Hohneck,19. Tevita Koloamatangi,20. Liam Squire,21. Brad Webber ,22. Andrew Horrell,23. James Lowe
1 - Kane Hames , 2 - Liam Coltman , 3 - Chris King , 4 - Jarrad Hoeata , 5 - Joe Wheeler , 6 - Gareth Evans , 7 - John Hardie , 8 - Nasi Manu (co-captain) , 9 - Aaron Smith , 10 - Lima Sopoaga , 11 - Malakai Fekitoa , 12 - Shaun Treeby , 13 - Winston Stanley, 14 - Richard Buckman , 15 - Ben Smith (co-captain)
Replacements : 16 - Brayden Mitchell, 17 - Matias Diaz, 18 - Craig Millar, 19 - Josh Bekhuis, 20 - Shane Christie, 21 - Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 - Trent Renata, 23 - Phil Burleigh