The Crusaders ended a two match losing streak to the Highlanders by coming from 27-6 down to win 27-30 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The Highlanders appeared to have the match won but allowed the Crusaders to score 24 unanswered points and steal the victory.
The Crusaders started the match as the stronger team and spent much of the first twenty minutes of a hugely physical spell in the Highlanders half.
Mitchell Hunt opened the scoring with a penalty for the visitors before Lima Sopoaga leveled the scores in the 22nd.
With the Crusaders dominating the stats Sopoaga missed a penalty kick that could have put the Highlanders ahead.
A minute later from a penalty the Highlanders went long at the line out and Waisake Naholo offloaded to Gareth Evans who scored the Highlanders fist try of the season putting the home side 7 points ahead with the conversion.
Hunt added another penalty to bring the Crusaders to within four points but Highlanders halfback spotted fullback David Havili out of place and with a deft kick behind the scrum set up Waisake Naholo for a classy try which put the home side ahead 17-6 at the break.
Six minutes after the break the Highlanders backline combined for another classy try as Sopoaga chipped ahead for Malakai Fekitoa to send Naholo under the posts for his second.
A penalty try from a scrum and a try by Havili got the Crusaders back in contention at 27-18 with ten minutes remaining.
The Highlanders were forced to play the last 9 minutes of the contest with a man in the bin after Malakai Fekitoa was yellow carded for a tackle in the air on Havili.
With the extra man the Crusaders scored two late tries by Whetu Douglas and Seta Tamanivalu and snatched the victory from the Highlanders after being down 27-6 earlier in the contest.
Next week the Highlanders travel to Auckland to face the Blues at Eden Park while the Crusaders fly to Brisbane to face the Reds.
More to follow.
Final Score Highlanders 27 (17) Crusaders 30 (6)
Tries – G.Evans, W.Naholo 2
Pen – L.Sopoaga 2
Con – L.Sopoaga 3
Cards – M.Fekitoa (71st min yellow)
Tries – Penalty try, D. Havili, W.Douglas, S.Tamanivalu
Pen – M.Hunt 2
Con – Penalty try conversion, Hunt
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 2: Jamie Nutbrown
TMO : Shane McDermott
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown,2. Liam Coltman,3. Siosuia Halanukonuka,4. Alex Ainley,5. Tom Franklin,6. Elliot Dixon ( C ),7. James Lentjes,8. Liam Squire,9. Aaron Smith,10. Lima Sopoaga,11. Tevita Li,12. Rob Thompson,13. Malakai Fekitoa,14. Waisake Naholo,15. Richard Buckman
Replacements: 16. Adrian Smith ,17. Craig Millar,18. Siate Tokolahi,19. Joe Wheeler,20. Gareth Evans,21. Kayne Hammington,22. Fletcher Smith,23. Patrick Osborne
1. Joe Moody , 2. Codie Taylor , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Scott Barrett , 5. Sam Whitelock (C) , 6. Jordan Taufua , 7. Matt Todd (VC) , 8. Whetu Douglas , 9. Bryn Hall , 10. Mitchell Hunt , 11. Seta Tamanivalu , 12. Ryan Crotty (VC) , 13. Jack Goodhue , 14. Israel Dagg , 15. David Havili
Replacements : 16. Ben Funnell , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Michael Alaalatoa , 19. Luke Romano , 20. Jed Brown , 21. Mitchell Drummond , 22. Marty McKenzie , 23. George Bridge