The Crusaders ended a two match losing streak to the Highlanders by hammering them 51-18 at the new AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Friday.
The Crusaders had a bye last week but showed no signs of rustiness as they outscored the visitors by seven tries to two earning the hosts the bonus point.
The final scoreline broke the Crusaders highest points scored record against the Highlanders as it surpassed the 46 points they scored in 2004.
All Blacks winger Zac Guildford scored two tries, both created by flyhalf Daniel Carter who kicked 16 points and scored a try in the match.
Guildford, who will likely play in New Zealand's June tests against Ireland, fetched Carter's chip kicks in the 29th and 34th minutes to score tries which gave the Crusaders control after the Highlanders rallied from 10-0 down to lead 13-10.
George Whitelock, Ryan Crotty, Wyatt Crockett, Matt Todd and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw also scored as the Crusaders posted their highest-ever score against the Highlanders and moved up to second place at the start of the tournament's 15th round.
The Crusaders closed within two points of overall leaders the Chiefs, who also lead the New Zealand conference, ahead of the Chiefs' clash on Saturday with the Blues.
The Highlanders stayed in seventh place, one point outside the top six but their chances of making the playoffs are now more dependent on the outcome of other matches.
Friday's match was intensely physical and typical of derby clashes between New Zealand's two South Island franchises.
Both teams had a player sent to the sin-bin in the first half and 28 points were scored in the 20 minutes they were absent from the field.
After scoring the opening try in the third minute, flanker Whitelock was sin-binned as referee Steve Walsh lost patience with a series of professional fouls.
In Whitelock's absence All Blacks center Tamati Ellison scored the try that gave the Highlanders their only lead of the match.
England flanker James Haskell, playing for the Highlanders, was sent to the sin-bin in the 26th for similarly playing the ball on the ground and Guildford scored his two tries before he returned.
Inside center Crotty, who was one of the most creative members of the Crusaders backline, also scored as they added 22 points in 11 minutes to seal a four-try bonus point and a 32-13 lead by halftime.
The Crusaders resumed the onslaught in the second half, scoring through McCaw only six minutes after the resumption. His was the most contentious of tries they scored, containing at least one forward pass and a doubtful grounding.
Crockett scored in the 56th after a Crusaders attack which also included a knock-on and replacement flanker Todd scored their seventh and final try 10 minutes from fulltime.
The Highlanders gained a small consolation from an intercept try to winger Hosea Gear in the 60th which almost certainly prevented another Crusaders try.
The Crusaders held a huge advantage over the Highlanders at scrums and gradually established the same ascendancy at the breakdown.
Their continuous supply of possession and heavy territorial advantage translated easily into points because of the line-breaking ability of players such as Crotty, Guildford and center Robbie Fruean.
Final Score Crusaders 51 (32) Highlanders 18 (13).
Tries - G. Whitelock, Z Guildford 2, D. Carter, R McCaw, W Crockett, M. Todd
Pen - D. Carter 2
Con - D. Carter 5
Cards - G Whitelock (Yellow)
Tries - T Ellison, H.Gear
Pen - C. Noakes 2
Con - C Noakes
Cards - J Haskell (Yellow)
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant Ref 1:Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO : Vinny Munro
1. Wyatt Crockett 2. Corey Flynn 3. Ben Franks 4. Luke Romano 5. Samuel Whitelock 6. George Whitelock 7. Richie McCaw (c) 8. Kieran Read 9. Andy Ellis 10. Dan Carter (vc) 11. Zac Guildford 12. Ryan Crotty 13. Robbie Fruean 14. Adam Whitelock15. Israel Dagg
Reserves :16. Quentin MacDonald,17. Owen Franks,18. Tom Donnelly,19. Matt Todd,20. Willi Heinz,21. Tom Taylor,22. Tom Marshall
1 Jamie Mackintosh (c) 2 Andrew Hore 3 Chris King 4 Jarrad Hoeata 5 Josh Bekhuis 6 Adam Thomson 7 James Haskell 8 Nasi Manu 9 Aaron Smith 10 Chris Noakes 11 Hosea Gear 12 Phil Burleigh 13 Tamati Ellison 14 Kurt Baker 15 Ben Smith
Reserves 16 Jason Rutledge 17 Bronson Murray 18 Nick Crosswell 19 Tim Boys 20 Jimmy Cowan 21 Mike Delany 22 Kade Poki