The Melbourne Rebels earned their first ever victory over the Reds when they beat the Queenslanders 27-30 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
In the 78th minute of the match Ed O'Donoghue was red-carded for coming in contact with Scott Higginbotham's eyes.
The Rebels were awarded a penalty for the offence and Jason Woodward kicked the penalty to earn the Melbourne franchise the victory.
Referee Steve Walsh had already dealt with the fracas, awarding a defensive penalty to the Reds.
Play continued for some time before the television referee called Walsh's attention to O'Donoghue's action.
Walsh watched several replays on the big screen at Suncorp Stadium before accepting the TMO's recommendation to red-card O'Donoghue and to award a penalty to the Rebels, which Woodward kicked from close range.
The decision allowed the Rebels to post their fourth win of the season and to move clear of the Reds, who dropped to the bottom of the Australian conference with their sixth straight loss.
The Reds had drawn level with the Rebels in an extremely close game with a penalty in the 74th minute, tying the score at 27-27 but the contentious late ruling against the Reds handed Melbourne an historic win.
"I'm extremely happy with the effort of the boys," Higginbotham said.
"It was a tough forward contest but at the end of the day that's not how you want to win a game.
"That's a bit disappointing but I'm very happy because we were well overdue for a win."
Higginbotham spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for an elbow charge which broke the nose of Reds centre Mike Harris in the first minute of a fractious match.
Harris scored a try in Higginbotham's absence, giving the Reds an early 7-0 lead, and assumed the goalkicking duties - landing two conversions and a penalty - when Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper was forced from the field in the eighth minute with a shoulder injury.
The severity of Cooper's injury was not immediately clear but may cloud the naming of an Australian squad next week.
Rebels scrumhalf Luke Burgess, also in contention for Wallabies selection, scored two tries - the first double of his career - before leaving the field late in the match with a serious knee injury.
The teams went to halftime locked at 17-17 and Burgess' second try early in the second half carried the Rebels to an important lead.
The Reds drew level with a try to replacement Ben Lucas, stayed on terms through an exchange of penalties then saw their winning hopes shattered by Woodward's late goal.
The result extends the Reds losing streak to six matches and is their ninth loss from 12 matches this season.
Final Score Reds 27 (17) Rebels 30 (17)
Tries - M.Harris, G.Holmes, B. Lucas
Pen - M.Harris 2
Con - Q.Cooper, M.Harris 2
Cards - E. O'Donoghue (78th min Red)
Tries - T.Kingston, L.Burgess 2
Pen - J.Woodward 3
Con - J.Woodward 3
Cards - S.Higginbotham (1st min yellow),
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant Ref 1: Matt O'Brien
Assistant Ref 2: Damien Mitchelmore
TMO: Steve Leszczynski
1. Ben Daley , 2. James Hanson , 3. Greg Holmes , 4. Rob Simmons , 5. James Horwill (C) , 6. Curtis Browning , 7. Beau Robinson , 8. Jake Schatz , 9. Will Genia (VC) , 10. Quade Cooper , 11. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi , 12. Anthony Fainga'a , 13. Ben Tapuai , 14. Dom Shipperley , 15. Mike Harris
16. Saia Fainga'a , 17. Albert Anae , 18. Jono Owen , 19. Ed O'Donoghue , 20. Dave McDuling , 21. Nick Frisby , 22. Ben Lucas , 23. Rod Davies ,
1. Toby Smith,2. Pat Leafa,3. Laurie Weeks,4. Cadeyrn Neville,5. Luke Jones,6. Colby Fainga'a,7. Scott Fuglistaller,8. Scott Higginbotham (C),9. Luke Burgess,10. Bryce Hegarty,11. Tom English,12. Mitch Inman ,13. Tamati Ellison,14. Tom Kingston,15. Jason Woodward
Replacements 16. Steve Fualau,17. Cruze Ah-Nau,18. Paul Alo-Emilie,19. Hugh Pyle,20. Sean McMahon,21. Ben Meehan,22. Jack Debreczeni,23. Telusa Veainu