The Highlanders recovered from a slow start to beat the Bulls 27-20 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday.
The Highlanders outscored the Bulls by three tries to two in the contest for a third consecutive victory over the Bulls in Dunedin as the last time the Bulls won in the Southern city was in 2007.
The Bulls made a strong start in the match and went out to a 3-13 lead but the Highlanders fought their way back and levelled the scores to 13 all at half time.
In the second half the Highlanders went out to a 27-13 lead before the Bulls scored a try in extra time which earned them a losing bonus point.
Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga scored 17 points through a try,three conversions and two penalties in the match.
Centre Malakai Fekitoa had another peformance which will have caught the interest of the All Black selectors as he scored a try and provided the last pass in another try scored by flanker Gareth Evans.
The Highlanders defended stoutly throughout the second half, denying the Bulls who had a substantial advantage of territory and possession.
The home side won more than a dozen turnovers at breakdowns, costing the Pretoria-based Bulls the chance to build sustained pressure, and blunted the Bulls' dangerous lineout.
The win ensured the Highlanders head into a bye next week in a strong position, having moved as high as fifth place ahead of the remainder of the weekend's ninth round matches.
"There was a lot to be proud of there," Highlanders captain Ben Smith said. "Probably just our ticker."
"We just stuck in there and defended our line really well so I was pretty proud of the boys. All of the coaching staff have done really well this week and the boys executed the plan well so happy to have a win."
The Bulls started strongly, playing an enterprising brand of rugby, and scored a try after 22 minutes to winger Bjorn Basson from a brilliant kick by scrumhalf Piet van Zyl.
Van Zyl skirted the blind side of an attacking scrum and put in a high kick which Basson caught on the run and unopposed near the Highlanders' line.
The Highlanders hit back with a try to Sopoaga from a planned move in which center Shaun Treeby cut back through an inside channel and fired a pass to the flyhalf which was deflected towards the Bulls' goal line by van Zyl.
Sopoaga kicked a penalty close to halftime to tie the score at 13-13 at the break and to reach his 100 points for the season.
The Highlanders led with a brilliant try to Evans in the 44th minute.
Winger Patrick Osborne began the movement with a break out of defense, linking with back rower Elliot Dixon and, from the next phase, Fekitoa cracked the defense for Evans to score.
Fekitoa's try in the 55th minute, converted by Sopoaga, clinched the match.
"We pretty much fell asleep (in the second half)," Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe said.
"We had all the possession but just couldn't convert."
The Highlanders have a bye next week and then head to South Africa for matches against the Sharks and the Stormers before returning home to face the Lions in Dunedin.
The Bulls travel to Sydney where they will face the Waratahs next week.
Final Score Highlanders 27 (13) Bulls 20 (13)
Tries - L.Sopoaga, G. Evans, M.Fekitoa
Pen - L.Sopoaga 2
Con - L.Sopoaga 3
Tries - B.Basson, M.van der Merwe
Pen - J.Potgieter 2
Con - J.Potgieter 2
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 1: Kane McBride
Assistant Ref 2: Shane McDermott
TMO: Vinny Munro
1. Kane Hames , 2. Liam Coltman , 3. Chris King , 4. Brad Thorn , 5. Joe Wheeler , 6. Gareth Evans , 7. Shane Christie , 8. Elliot Dixon , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Shaun Treeby , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Richard Buckman , 15. Ben Smith (co-captain)
Replacements : 16. Ged Robinson , 17. Craig Millar , 18. Ma'afu Fia , 19. Jarrad Hoeata , 20. John Hardie , 21. Fumiaki Tanaka , 22. Trent Renata , 23. Nasi Manu (co-captain)
Jurgen Visser , Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein , Francois Hougaard , Jacques-Louis Potgieter , Piet van Zyl, Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross , Victor Matfield , Flip van der Merwe (c), Werner Kruger , Callie Visagie , Dean Greyling .
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi , Marcel van der Merwe , Morne Mellett , Paul Willemse , Jacques Engelbrecht , Handre Pollard , William Small-Smith , Ulrich Beyers.