The Sharks recovered from their loss to the Highlanders at home last week by beating the Rebels 16-22 in Melbourne at AAMI Park.
The result makes the Sharks the first South African team to cross the Indian Ocean and win away from home after matches from the SA teams so far in 2014.
The Sharks have now played the Melbourne Rebels three times and won all three matches.
JP Pietersen scored the Sharks' only try and Frans Steyn kicked a conversion and five penalties to start their tour on a positive note.
The Cheetahs, Bulls and Stormers collectively have lost 12 matches in Australia in New Zealand but the Sharks bucked that trend to embellish their one-point lead atop the championship ladder.
With Friday's win, they moved five points ahead of the ACT Brumbies and improved their points differential to plus 94, likely making it impossible for the Brumbies to head them off when they play the Crusaders later in this round.
A dour first half resolved itself into an exchange of penalties: Steyn kicked five from five for the Sharks, and Jason Woodward kicked two from two for the Rebels as the visitors took a 15-6 lead to the break.
Woodward added another goal to trim the lead to 15-9 after 54 minutes but the Sharks then stepped up their game.
They attacked with more energy and focus, forced a turnover and scored the try in the 63rd minute which separated the teams.
The Rebels paid heavily for turning over possession throughout the match but most heavily when Lwazi Mvovo linked with Pietersen from a Melbourne error to create the winning try.
The Rebels hit back with a try to replacement Pat Leafa in the 70th, and Woodward added a conversion from the sideline to cut the lead to six points.
They finished the match hot on attack but, in an ending symptomatic of their performance, Melbourne turned over the ball close to the Sharks line to concede their last hope of victory.
The Sharks were able to hold on for their eighth win from 10 matches while the Rebels took the small consolation of a bonus point for a loss by fewer than seven points.
The Sharks face their coach Jake White's former team the Brumbies in Canberra next weekend while the Rebels host the Hurricanes.
Final Score Rebels 16 (6) Sharks 22 (15)
Tries - P. Leafa
Pen - J.Woodward 3
Con - J.Woodward
Tries - J.P.Pietersen
Pen - F.Steyn 5
Con - F.Steyn
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Ref 1: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 2: James Leckie
TMO: Peter Marshall
1. Cruze Ah-Nau,2. Shota Horie,3. Laurie Weeks,4. Cadeyrn Neville,5. Luke Jones,6. Colby Fainga'a,7. Scott Fuglistaller,8. Scott Higginbotham (C),9. Luke Burgess,10. Bryce Hegarty,11. Tom English,12. Mitch Inman ,13. Tamati Ellison,14. Male Sau,15. Jason Woodward
Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa,17. Max Lahiff,18. Paul Alo-Emilie,19. Hugh Pyle,20. Sean McMahon,21. Nic Stirzaker,22. Tom Kingston,23. Angus Roberts
15. Lwazi Mvovo , 14. Odwa Ndungane , 13. Paul Jordaan , 12. Heimar Williams , 11. JP Pietersen , 10. Francois Steyn , 9. Charl McLeod , 8. Ryan Kankowski , 7. Jean Deysel , 6. Marcell Coetzee , 5. Stephan Lewies , 4. Willem Alberts , 3. Jannie du Plessis , 2. Bismarck du Plessis (C) , 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements : 16. Kyle Cooper , 17. Dale Chadwick , 18. Lourens Adriaanse , 19. Etienne Oosthuizen , 20. Keegan Daniel , 21. Cobus Reinach , 22. Fred Zeilinga , 23. SP Marais