The Chiefs edged out the Crusaders 20-17 to book a place in the 2012 Super Rugby final against the winner of the Stormers vs the Sharks Semi-final.
The loss for the Crusaders is the first time in Super Rugby history that they have lost in Australia or New Zealand in a Semi-final.
The Chiefs outscored the Crusaders by two tries to one and booked a place in their second Super Rugby final having lost 61-17 to the Bulls in 2009 final.
The Chiefs finished the regular season in second place so if the Stormers beat the Sharks the Chiefs will travel to Cape Town as the Stormers finished in first place.
However if the Sharks beat the Stormers at Newlands the Chiefs will host their first ever Super Rugby final in Hamilton.
The Chiefs started the match strongly and went out to a 17-11 lead over the Crusaders who missed over 15 tackles in the first half alone.
Prop Sona Taumalolo scored his ninth try of the season while flanker Liam Messam scored the Chiefs second try.
All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter kicked four penalties for the Crusaders but missed a vital goal with four minutes remaining which might have leveled the scores and forced the game to extra time.
The Chiefs led throughout the match which was played in front of more than 30,000 fans at Waikato Stadium after flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked a penalty in the second minute.
All of the tries in the match were scored in the first half including Ryan Crotty's try for the Crusaders.
Taumalolo marked his 50th match for the Chiefs with his try in the 25th minute while Messam scored in the 32nd, giving the Chiefs their biggest lead of 11 points at 17-6.
But the Crusaders hit back with a try from center Crotty a minute before halftime, setting up a nail-biting second half in which the only points came from penalties.
Carter cut the lead to 17-14 after 43 minutes, surpassing 100 points for the season.
Cruden then re-established a six-point margin to 20-14 with an answering goal six minutes later.
Carter struck again in the 61st minute and that fragile, three-point margin endured for the last 20 minutes of the game.
Chiefs fans had their hearts in their mouths when Carter lined up his fifth penalty attempt with four minutes remaining. But his kick from 45 meters, in front of the posts, faded and fell short.
The Chiefs then hung on with great discipline to deny Carter another chance before fulltime.
As the match drew to a close Carter appeared to be lining up for a drop goal but the Chiefs defence pushed the Crusaders backwards and out of range.
The game was ruggedly physical and often spiteful. There were frequent flare-ups between players and South African referee Craig Joubert - who controlled last year's World Cup final - was at pains to keep a lid on emotions.
While the Chiefs played the game at an almost frenzied pace and with great attacking skill threatening the Crusaders through the line-breaking ability of Cruden, Messam, Sonny Bill Williams and winger Robbie Robinson, it was the Chiefs' defence that won the match.
Final Score Chiefs 20 (17) Crusaders 17 (11).
Tries - S. Taumalolo, L. Messam
Pen - A. Cruden 2
Con - A. Cruden 2
Tries - R. Crotty
Pen - D. Carter 4
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Ref 1: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Ref 2: Keith Brown
TMO: Garratt Williamson
1. Sona Taumalolo, 2. Mahonri Schwalger, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Craig Clarke (c), 5. Brodie Retallick, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 8. Kane Thompson, 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10. Aaron Cruden, 11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Andrew Horrell, 14. Tim Nanai-Williams, 15. Robbie Robinson.
Replacements: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Ben Afeaki, 18. Michael Fitzgerald, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Jackson Willison, 22. Lelia Masaga.
1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Ben Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Richie McCaw (c), 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Dan Carter (vc), 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Adam Whitelock, 15. Israel Dagg.
Reserves: 16. Quentin MacDonald, 17. Owen Franks, 18. Tom Donnelly, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Sean Maitland.