The Chiefs got back to winning ways when they beat the Sharks 37-29 with a bonus point in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Chiefs scored three early tries and went out to a 24-0 lead but allowed the Sharks to come back at them and score four tries to secure a try bonus point of their own.
Winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma and centres Bundee Aki and Tim Nanai-Williams scored tries as the Chiefs sprinted into the lead before repelling one of the comebacks of the season to end a two-match losing run that had threatened their title defence.
The Sharks hit back by scoring three first tries in 18 minutes to trail 24-19 at halftime.
The result has a big impact on the overall standings as the Chiefs moved to the top of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference and the Sharks provisionally move to the top of the South African Conference thanks to their bonus point.
The Sharks started the match in 9th place but moved up to third as they topped the South African conference although the Cheetahs and the Bulls play later and could both knock them off the top spot.
Fullback Gareth Anscombe kicked four conversions and two penalties in a perfect kicking performance for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have scored 29 tries this season and Anscombe has converted 27.
Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden added a late penalty from his first attempt of the season, taking him past 400 points in Super Rugby, to deny the Sharks a further bonus point for a loss by less than seven points.
Flanker Derrick Minnie, on loan to the Sharks from the Johannesburg-based Lions, scored two tries.
Backrower Lubabalo Mtembu scored another on debut, and veteran Keegan Daniel came off the bench to touch down for a fourth as the Sharks fought valiantly to overcome their early disadvantage.
They never came closer than the five-point halftime deficit, though they matched the Chiefs try for try.
Flyhalf Patrick Lambie, who kicked the Sharks to five wins this season, landed only three of six attempts at goal with his misses separating the teams.
When they last met in the 2012 final at Hamilton, the Chiefs won 37-6.
The Sharks play the Highlanders next weekend in Dunedin while the Chiefs travel to Melbourne to play the Rebels.
Final Score Chiefs 37 (24) Sharks 29 (19)
Tries - A.Tikoirotuma, L.Messam, T.Nanai-Williams, B.Aki
Pen - G.Anscombe 2,A Cruden
Con - G.Anscombe 4
Tries - D.Minnie 2, L.Mtembu, K Daniel.
Pen - P.Lambie,
Con - P.Lambie 3
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Ref 1:Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 2:Shane McDermott
TMO : Glenn Newman
1.Toby Smith, 2.Mahonri Schwalger, 3.Michael Kainga, 4.Craig Clarke (c), 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Liam Messam , 7.Tanerau Latimer, 8.Nick Crosswell, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12.Bundee Aki, 13.Tim Nanai-Williams, 14.Lelia Masaga, 15.Gareth Anscombe
Replacements :16.Rhys Marshall, 17.Ben Tameifuna, 18.Michael Fitzgerald, 19.Sam Cane, 20.Brendon Leonard, 21.Robbie Robinson, 22.Charlie Ngatai.
15. Riaan Viljoen , 14. Odwa Ndungane , 13. Francois Steyn , 12. Meyer Bosman , 11. Piet Lindeque , 10. Patrick Lambie , 9. Charl McLeod , 8. Lubabalo Mtembu , 7. Jean Deysel (C) , 6. Derick Minnie , 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit , 4. Anton Bresler , 3. Jannie du Plessis , 2. Craig Burden , 1. Wiehahn Herbst
Replacements , 16. Kyle Cooper , 17. Danie Mienie , 18. Franco van der Merwe , 19. Keegan Daniel , 20. Marcell Coetzee , 21. Cobus Reinach , 22. S'bura Sithole