Israel Dagg scored two tries as the Crusaders powered to a 13-44 bonus point victory over the Highlanders which moves the Crusaders to the top of the New Zealand conference.
The Crusaders next match is on Sunday at Twickenham in London against the Sharks as they cannot use their home ground at AMI Stadium which was hit by the recent Christchurch earthquakes.
The result moves the Crusaders up to second in the Super Rugby standings and drops the Highlanders from third to seventh - with matches to come.
The local derby involving the closest of neighbours and fiercest of rivals on Saturday highlighted the gulf between New Zealand's top two teams as the Crusaders scored six tries to one.
The win lifted them to the top of the New Zealand conference, four points clear of the Highlanders, who suffered their second consecutive defeat after opening the season with a three-match winning streak.
In the crucial area up front, where the Highlanders had dominated all before them so far this season, they were found wanting by the Crusaders' All Blacks-laden pack, who cashed in on turnover ball.
The Highlanders had their opportunities but found the Crusaders defence impregnable, which in turned forced them into a lot of lateral running with little to show for the effort.
It was tough night with the boot for the Highlanders. Fly-half Tony Brown missed three of five attempts at goal and replacement Robbie Robinson missed one from two while the Crusaders kickers Dan Carter and Matt Berquist landed six from 10.
In a tense first half the Crusaders scored first in the ninth minute when they turned down an easy penalty shot at goal and ran the ball with Robbie Fruean diving over wide out.
The Highlanders replied with two Brown penalties and had the chance to put pressure on the Crusaders in the countdown to halftime when Sam Whitelock was yellow-carded but it was the visitors who came out on top in the 10-minute mis-match.
With a player down they added six points from two Carter penalties to turn with a slender 13-6 advantage before the floodgates opened.
After the tough words at the interval from coach Todd Blackadder, Read stretched the margin soon after the restart with a 50 metre run to the line.
Fullback Israel Dagg entered the backline to score twice, once off a trademark offload from Sonny Bill Williams who also put prop Wyatt Crockett in for a try.
Replacement halfback Kahn Fotuali'i scored a try when the Crusaders pack demolished a Highlanders five-metre scrum to have his side up 44-6 before Adam Thomson scored a consolation try on fulltime, converted by Robinson.
The Crusaders, left homeless because of damage to AMI Stadium in the devastating Christchurch earthquake, now head to London to play their sixth round match against the Sharks while the Highlanders have a bye.
Final Score Highlanders 13 Crusaders 44
Tries - A Thomson
Pen - T Brown 2
Con - R Robinson
Tries - R Fruean, K Read, I Dagg 2, K Fotuali'i, W Crockett
Pen - D Carter 3
Con - D Carter 3, M Berquist
Cards - Sam Whitelock (34st min) Yellow
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant Ref 1:Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2:Joey Salmans
Highlanders :1. Chris King , 2 Mo Schwalger , 3 David Te Moana , 4 Josh Bekhuis , 5 Tom Donnelly , 6 Jarrad Hoeata , 7 Adam Thomson , 8 Nasi Manu , 9 Jimmy Cowan (C) , 10 Tony Brown , 11 Siale Piutau , 12 Shaun Treeby , 13 Kendrick Lynn , 14 James Paterson , 15 Ben Smith
Replacements : 16. Jason Rutledge , 17. Bronson Murray/Jamie Mackintosh , 18. Nick Crosswell , 19. Alando Soakai , 20. Aaron Smith
Crusaders:1. Ben Franks ,2. Corey Flynn ,3. Owen Franks,4. Brad Thorn ,5. Sam Whitelock,6. George Whitelock ,7. Matt Todd ,8. Kieran Read (Capt),9. Andy Ellis ,10. Daniel Carter ,11. Adam Whitelock,12. Sonny Bill Williams,13. Robbie Fruean,14. Sean Maitland,15. Israel Dagg
Reserves: 16. Quentin MacDonald,17. Wyatt Crockett,18. Chris Jack,19. Jonathan Poff,20. Kahn Fotuali'i,21. Matt Berquist,22. Zac Guildford