Ardie Savea scored a late try to help the Hurricanes edge the Highlanders 27-20 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
The Highlanders had won the previous two Super Rugby matches between the teams including last year’s Super Rugby final in Wellington.
The Hurricanes outscored the Highlanders by three tries to two in the match with Ardie Savea scoring a try in each half.
The result means that the teams change places with the Hurricanes moving above the Highlanders in the New Zealand Conference, the Australasian Group and the overall standings.
Savea was one of five players who were dropped before the bye for breaking team curfew but made up for it by scoring the crucial, last-gasp match winning try.
Skipper Dane Coles said the Hurricanes were finally finding last year’s red-hot form and it was a shame Super Rugby was heading into an international break after this round.
“It’s unfortunate we have a break but we’ll take a lot of confidence from this,” he said, after the high-tempo contest despite wet conditions in Wellington.
“Once we come back we’ve got a big challenge and every game’s a must-win for us.”
The Hurricanes were bolstered by the return of the five suspended players, who included Julian Savea and his uncapped brother Ardie.
Both appear set to be named Sunday in the All Blacks squad for the upcoming three-Test series against Wales.
Cory Jane, another returnee from the naughty corner, also excelled, playing a part in the Hurricanes first two tries.
The 53-Test winger, who last played for the All Blacks in November 2014, is tipped to head to Japan at the end of the season if he is omitted from the squad to face Wales.
He sparked the opening try in the 13th minute when his break on the wing started an attack that culminated in Ardie Savea racing past his markers to dot down between the posts.
Jane was involved again when TJ Perenara burst from the back of a scrum and the winger flicked the ball on to Brad Shields for the Hurricanes’ second five-pointer.
Lima Sopoaga clawed one back for the Highlanders, powering through Victor Vito’s tackle after Malakai Fekitoa’s run set him up.
Sopoaga almost created another with an audacious backwards chip kick but the Highlanders lost possession and went into the break trailing 17-7.
They caught the Hurricanes napping early in the second half, with Dan Lienert-Brown scoring a try two minutes after the restart.
With the scores locked at 20-20 in the final minutes, a wayward Beauden Barrett penalty kick appeared to have squandered the Hurricanes’ chance of victory.
But Savea seized the ball at the breakdown and charged over to seal the win at the death.
The Hurricanes return from the June Internationals with a match on the 2nd of July against the Blues in Wellington.
The Highlanders travel to South Africa where they play the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on the same day.
Final Score Hurricanes 27 (17) Highlanders 20 (7)
Tries – A.Savea 2, B.Shields
Pen – B.Barrett 2
Con – B.Barrett 3
Tries – L.Sopoaga, D.Lienert-Brown
Pen – L.Sopoaga, M.Banks
Con – L.Sopoaga 2
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:Jamie Nutbrown
TMO : Aaron Peterson
15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (vc), 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reggie Goodes
Replacements: Motu Matu’u, Chris Eves, Lonu Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Ngani Laumape, Jason Woodward.
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 2. Ash Dixon , 3. Josh Hohneck , 4. Alex Ainley , 5. Tom Franklin , 6. Elliot Dixon , 7. Dan Pryor , 8. Luke Whitelock , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Malakai Fekitoa , 13. Matt Faddes , 14. Waisake Naholo , 15. Ben Smith (c)
Replacements : 16. Greg Pleasants-Tate , 17. Aki Seiuli , 18. Siosiua Halanukonuka , 19. Mark Reddish , 20. Liam Squire , 21. Fumiaki Tanaka , 22. Marty Banks , 23. Teihorangi Walden