Tom Taylor kicked two Crusaders penalties in the last minutes to earn his team a tight 15-11 victory over the Reds in Christchurch.
The Reds had won the three previous matches between the teams including last year's Super Rugby final.
The Reds scored the only try of the match but Crusaders number 10 Tom Taylor kicked five penalties which proved to be enough to win the match.
Taylor landed five goals from six attempts, maintaining his 85 percent success rate for the season, to lift the Crusaders to victory in a match in which the lead changed hands five times.
He reclaimed the lead for last time for the Crusaders with his fourth penalty in the 72nd minute, putting them ahead 12-11, then sealed the win with his final goal four minutes later.
The Reds scored the only try of the match inside the first minute and were arguably the better team throughout as the Crusaders performance was littered with errors.
The only area in which the Crusaders were wholly superior was at scrums where they dominated the Reds for all but a 10-minute spell in the second half when All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia.
The Red gained the upper hand in most other areas, notably at breakdowns where they forced turnovers and gained early penalties.
New Zealand-born center Mike Harris missed his only two kicks at goal in the first half as the Crusaders took a 6-5 lead to halftime.
But he landed two from two in the second half to give the Reds an 11-9 lead with the goal that stemmed from Crockett's yellow card.
Penalties began to flow the Crusaders way in the last 10 minutes of the match and Taylor took advantage, improving his tally for the season to 38 goals from 45 attempts.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie had closely studied the Crusaders and his players were able to anticipate and disrupt the Crusaders' pattern.
Their flat and fast-moving defensive line closed down the Crusaders' dangerous backline, applied pressure and forced the home team into uncharacteristic errors.
"I guess for us we're just happy to scrape away with a win," Crusaders captain Keiran Read said. "We needed it to continue our momentum."
"The performance wasn't there but I guess there was character. Credit to the boys that we just hung in there and got the result."
Read said the Crusaders had been too easily rattled when they conceded a try to Reds hooker James Hanson after only 55 seconds.
"It's never easy when you start like that," he said. "I think composure wasn't quite there.
Reds hooker Hanson handled twice in the movement that led to the only try of the match when the Reds charged down a Crusaders clearing kick immediately after the kickoff.
The Reds immediately drove to the Crusader's goal line, patiently recycled possession then drove Hanson over on a blindside that was inadequately defended.
Taylor kicked a penalty in the seventh minute and another in the 20th to force the first lead change of the match. Harris missed the conversion of Hanson's try and a 33rd-minute penalty which cost the Reds any chance of taking a lead to halftime.
He landed his first goal of the match three minutes into the second spell but Taylor replied only three minutes later. Harris goaled in the 61st minute to make it 11-9 before Taylor's reliable boot decided the match.
The Reds took a consolation bonus point from the match to be nine points off the lead held by the Brumbies in the Australian conference. They return to Brisbane to face the first-place Chiefs at home next weekend.
The Crusaders moved into second place in the New Zealand conference, seven points behind the Chiefs.
Reds captain James Horwill said his team "did some really good things and then we did some really silly things" in a match watched by Wallabies coach and Christchurch native Robbie Deans.
Final Score Crusaders 15 (6) Reds 11 (5)
Pen - Taylor 5
Cards - W Crockett (61st minute yellow)
Tries - Hanson
Pen - Harris 2
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Assistant Ref 1:Vinny Munro
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
1. Greg Holmes,2. James Hanson ,3. James Slipper,4. Rob Simmons,5. James Horwill (c),6. Jake Schatz,7. Liam Gill,8. Scott Higginbotham,9. Will Genia (vc),10. Ben Lucas,11. Digby Ioane,12. Mike Harris,13. Anthony Faingaa,14. Dom Shipperley,15. Luke Morahan,
Replacements : 16. Saia Faingaa,17. Albert Anae,18. Adam Wallace-Harrison,19. Radike Samo,20. Eddie Quirk,21. Nick Frisby,22. Rod Davies
1. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano , 5. Tom Donnelly, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Kieran Read, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Tom Taylor , 11. Zac Guildford , , 12. Dan Carter , , 13. Robbie Fruean , , 14. Sean Maitland/Adam Whitelock,15. Israel Dagg
Reserves , 16. Ben Funnell , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Samuel Whitelock , 19. Richie McCaw , 20. Willi Heinz , 21. Ryan Crotty , 22. Tom Marshall