The Highlanders upset the Crusaders with an 18-26 victory that denied the Crusaders from gaining any points at all from the match.
The Highlanders played with enormous commitment and put their bodies on the line and defended with heart.
The Highlanders outscored the Crusaders by three tries to two including two tries from winger James Paterson.
Paterson scored in the 30th and 41st minutes as the Highlanders posted their seventh win from nine games while handing the Crusaders their second loss from nine matches, and their first since the season's opening round.
Thirty-six-year-old former All Blacks flyhalf Tony Brown helped keep the Highlanders ahead by kicking 11 points from a conversion and three penalties.
The Crusaders were missing a number of their stars such as Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw and also named some stars on the bench such as Sonny Bill Williams on the bench as from next week they tour Australia and South Africa.
The result keeps the two teams in the same positions they started the week in but the Highlanders seventh victory from nine matches puts them a point behind the Crusaders.
The Blues took charge of the New Zealand conference yesterday and they face the Highlanders next weekend.
While the Crusaders were without their big stars the Highlanders were missing seven players who started last week's match against the Melbourne Rebels, among them All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade and flanker Adam Thomson.
The Highlanders employed a fast-moving and smothering defence which, coupled with their strong play at breakdowns, prevented the Crusaders from establishing their usual phase play and fast-paced game plan.
The Crusaders back movements were repeatedly cut down among the inside backs.
The Highlanders tackled themselves to a standstill but they were helped by the Crusaders' multiple changes which left them often looking panicked and disorganized.
The Crusaders attacked repeatedly through the final 18 minutes of the match, after a 62-minute penalty to Brown established the Highlanders' 26-18 lead.
But they were unable to break down the defense and at the end the Crusaders' attack had an edge of desperation.
The Crusaders led with a first-minute penalty to flyhalf Matt Berquist but Brown answered in the sixth minute to tie the scores.
The former Champion Crusaders then showed how dangerous it can be, particularly when a rush defense fails, by scoring a try through winger Zac Guildford in the 14th minute which gave it a 10-3 lead.
Back rower Nasi Manu handled three times in a movement which led to a try by Siale Piutau which brought the Highlanders back into the match at 10-8.
Berquist kicked another penalty but the Highlanders took the lead from the Crusaders with Paterson's try in the 30th minute.
Paterson showed great pace and strength, beating three players including All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg in a dash down the left touch which gave the Highlanders a two-point margin at halftime.
Paterson then opened the second half with a try, from a pinpoint crossfield kick by Brown, which gave the Highlanders a 20-13 lead and all but clinched the match.
Center Adam Whitelock scored an intercept try for the Crusaders which again cut the margin to two points but penalties to Brown in the 60th and 62nd minutes gave the Highlanders a lead of more than seven points.
Final Score Crusaders 18 Highlanders 26
Tries - Z Guildford, A Whitelock
Pen - M Berquist
Con - M Berquist
Drop - M Berquist
Tries -S Piutau, J. Paterson 2
Pen - T Brown 3
Con - T Brown
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), James McPhail (New Zealand)
Television match official: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Crusaders :1. Wyatt Crockett,2. Quentin MacDonald,3. Owen Franks,4. Brad Thorn,5. Chris Jack (vc),6. George Whitelock,7. Matt Todd,8. Joe Wheeler,9. Andy Ellis (c),10. Matt Berquist,11. Zac Guildford,12. Adam Whitelock,13. Robbie Fruean,14. Tom Marshall,15. Israel Dagg
Replacements :16. Corey Flynn,17. Ben Franks,18. Luke Romano,19. Jonathan Poff,20. Kahn Fotuali'i,21. Sonny Bill Williams,22. Sean Maitland.
Highlanders :1 . Jamie Mackintosh (C) , 2 .Mo Schwalger , 3 . Chris King , 4 . Tom Donnelly , 5 . Josh Bekhuis , 6 . Jarrad Hoeata , 7 . John Hardie , 8 . Nasi Manu , 9 . Aaron Smith , 10 .Tony Brown , 11. Siale Piutau , 12 . Ben Smith , 13 .Kendrick Lynn , 14 . James Paterson , 15 . Robbie Robinson
Reserves: 16. Jason Rutledge , 17. David Te Moana , 18. Nick Crosswell , 19. Tim Boys , 20. Sean Romans , 21. Matt Saunders , 22. Telusa Veainu