The Highlanders secured their third victory of the Super Rugby season when they beat the Melbourne Rebels 33-30 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The Highlanders were beaten 30-12 by the Blues last week but recovered from the loss with a victory that moves them provisionally up to eighth place.
Both teams scored three tries each and the difference came down to one extra penalty from Highlanders No.10 Lima Sopoaga.
The Highlanders went out to a 20-13 lead at half time but the Rebels mounted a late comeback with a try from fullback Jason Woodward which allowed them to get within three points.
Sopoaga landed six goals from eight attempts to help the Dunedin-based Highlanders to their third win from six matches, while the Rebels were left with two wins from six games and have still to win outside Australia.
Flanker Shane Christie, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith scored tries for the Highlanders, who gained their first lead in the 15th minute and held a fluctuating advantage from then on.
Captain Scott Higginbotham turned in a magnificent performance for the Rebels, creating a length-of-the-field try for replacement flyhalf Angus Roberts which briefly tied the score at 20-20 early in the second half.
The Highlanders headed toward fulltime with a 10-point lead at 33-23 but a 76th-minute try to Rebels fullback Jason Woodward, who added a quick conversion from near the sideline, cut the lead to three points.
They held on but their occasional laxity with possession and indiscipline which allowed Woodward to kick three penalties in addition to conversions of his own try and others by Roberts and Scott Fuglistaller made the win more difficult than it should have been.
"I thought we showed a bit of ticker," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. "They might have got the odd try but we came right back at them.
"A bit to work on there but we'll get in and work hard on Monday."
The Rebels came into the match with their confidence high after last weekend's win over Australian conference leaders Brumbies. They started strongly with a try to Fuglistaller from a break by scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker, taking a 7-0 lead.
Sopoaga kicked his first penalty in the ninth minute, then added the conversion of Christie's try in the 15th minute to give the Highlanders their first lead at 10-7.
All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith darted over for a try in the 20th minute and Sopoaga added a penalty for a 20-10 lead in the 33rd minute but the Highlanders' advantage never exceeded 10 points.
The Rebels continually rallied to keep the Highlanders under pressure, most importantly when Roberts' try and Woodward's conversion tied the score at 20-20 after 43 minutes.
Higginbotham made the try, intercepting a pass and putting a perfectly-weighted kick behind the defense for Roberts to score.
Roberts took the field in the opening minutes of the match when starting flyhalf Bryce Hegarty was forced off with a head injury.
The Highlanders once again eased to a 10-point lead with a penalty to Sopoaga and a converted try to Ben Smith but the Rebels again came back, narrowing the margin with Woodward's late try.
"It's a good effort but not good enough," Higginbotham said.
"We came over here for a win but we didn't get the result so it's disappointing."
Final Score Highlanders 33 (20) Rebels 30 (13)
Tries - S. Christie, A Smith, B.Smith
Pen - L.Sopoaga 4
Con - L.Sopoaga 3
Tries - S.Fuglistaller, A Roberts, J.Woodward
Pen - J.Woodward 3
Con - J.Woodward 3
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Ref 1: Garratt Williamson
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Lash
TMO: Ben Skeen
1 . Chris King , 2 . Liam Coltman , 3 . Ma'afu Fia , 4 . Jarrad Hoeata , 5 . Joe Wheeler , 6 . Gareth Evans , 7 . Shane Christie , 8 . Nasi Manu (co.captain) , 9 . Aaron Smith , 10 . Lima Sopoaga , 11 . Kurt Baker , 12 . Shaun Treeby , 13 . Malakai Fekitoa , 14 . Richard Buckman , 15 . Ben Smith (co.captain)
Reserves , 16 . Ged Robinson , 17 . Craig Millar , 18 . Matias Diaz , 19 . Josh Bekhuis , 20 . Elliot Dixon , 21 . Fumiaki Tanaka , 22 . Trent Renata , 23 . TJ Ioane
1. Toby Smith , 2. Shota Horie , 3. Laurie Weeks , 4. Hugh Pyle , 5. Luke Jones , 6. Sean McMahon , 7. Scott Fuglistaller , 8. Scott Higginbotham (C) , 9. Nic Stirzaker , 10. Bryce Hegarty , 11. Tom English , 12. Mitch Inman , 13. Tamati Ellison , 14. Male Sau , 15. Jason Woodward
Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa , 17. Paul Alo-Emilie , 18. Cruze Ah-Nau , 19. Cadeyrn Neville , 20. Jordy Reid , 21. Luke Burgess , 22. Angus Roberts , 23. Alex Rokobaro