The Highlanders took a big step towards the Super Rugby play offs when they beat the Chiefs 29-25 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The result moves the Highlanders to the top of the New Zealand Conference but is a major blow for the Chiefs who are hoping for a "threepeat" by winning a third consecutive title.
The Highlanders on the other hand remain on track for their first play offs appearance in 12 years but have tough matches against the Waratahs and the Crusaders remaining.
Crucially the Chiefs earned a losing bonus point for finishing within 7 points but they will have to beat the Hurricanes and the Blues - preferably with bonus points - in their remaining matches to remain in contention.
The Chiefs, who won their first title in 2012 and defended it in 2013, may also need to rely on other results going their way.
The Chiefs opened the scoring with an early penalty but the Highlanders soon responded and scored the first try of the match.
New All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa powered through a Robbie Fruean tackle which set up Patrick Osborne for the opening try.
The Chiefs however hit straight back as Aaron Cruden chipped the ball behind the Highlanders defence and although it bounced awkwardly for the Highlanders it popped up for Dwayne Sweeney who scored the Chiefs first try.
Aaron Cruden's conversion put the Chiefs back into the lead and then Anscombe extended the lead with a long range penalty.
Highlanders first five Lima Sopoaga cut the gap a little and at half time the Chiefs led 10-13.
Both teams added second tries in the second half but All Blacks fullback Ben Smith finished off a brilliant counter attack which Fekitoa also had a hand in.
Lima Sopoaga's kicking boot proved to be decisive as he landed all six of his kicks at goal for a total of 16 points which took him past assistant coach Tony Brown's Highlanders season record of 150 points.
After Smith's try the conversion put the Highlanders into a 20-13 lead and two further penalties from Sopoaga gave the Dunedin side some breathing space.
The Chiefs needed to score twice so they brought on their replacements and Tim Nanai-Williams gave the current champions hope with 12 minutes remaining with a try.
The Chiefs continued to keep the Highlanders under pressure and prop Josh Hohneck scored the visitors third try with five minutes remaining.
However the Highlanders held on for another tight finish.
Final Score Highlanders 29 (10) Chiefs 25 (13)
Tries - P.Osborne, B.Smith
Pen - L.Sopoaga 4, H.Parker
Con - L.Sopoaga 2
Tries - D.Sweeney, T.Nanai-Williams, J.Hohneck
Pen - A.Cruden, G.Anscombe
Con - A.Cruden 2
Referee: Garratt Williamson
Assistant Ref 1: Kane McBride
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Lash
TMO: Chris Wratt
1 . Kane Hames , 2 . Brayden Mitchell , 3 . Ma'afu Fia , 4 . Tom Franklin , 5 . Joe Wheeler , 6 . Elliot Dixon , 7 . Shane Christie , 8 . Nasi Manu (co.captain) , 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 . Matias Diaz , 18 . Chris King , 19 . Josh Bekhuis , 20 . Lee Allan , 21 . Fumiaki Tanaka , 22 . Hayden Parker , 23 . Phil Burleigh
1. Pauliasi Manu,2. Mahonri Schwalger ,3. Ben Tameifuna ,4. Michael Fitzgerald ,5. Brodie Retallick ,6. Liam Messam,7. Tanerau Latimer,8. Liam Squire ,9. Augustine Pulu ,10. Aaron Cruden (c),11. Tom Marshall ,12. Bundee Aki,13. Robbie Fruean,14. Dwayne Sweeney ,15. Gareth Anscombe ,
Replacements : 16. Nathan Harris ,17. Jamie Mackintosh,18. Josh Hohneck,19. Matt Symons ,20. Tevita Koloamatangi ,21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow ,22. Tim Nanai-Williams ,23. James Lowe