The Hurricanes secured a 31-33 bonus point victory over the Highlanders at Carisbrook in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Hurricanes still have a chance of reaching the play offs after the Stormers and the Crusaders lost their respective matches in this round and they trail the leaders by 7 points on the log.
The match started at some pace with both teams sealing the bonus point for scoring four tries before half time.
In the second half the match was much more of a defensive display and only one try each was scored in the half.
Fifty points were scored in the first half - the Hurricanes led 26-24 at halftime - and each side scored a further try in the second half before the Hurricanes sealed their fifth win from 10 games.
Flyhalf Aaron Cruden scored a try and set up two others for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes need to win all of their remaining games, against the Chiefs, Reds and Waratahs, to have any hope of reaching the semifinals.
The narrow difference between the teams Saturday ultimately was Cruden -the New Zealand under-20 flyhalf.
He kicked four conversions while Highlanders fullback Israel Dagg managed three.
"It was reasonable fun in the first half but in the second half we lost a bit of structure," Hurricanes captain Andrew Hore said.
"We're disappointed about letting them back in the game in the second spell rather than putting them out of it."
The first half was full of tit-for-tat scoring with first the Hurricanes touching down, then the Highlanders replying.
In the second half both teams lost their momentum until Hurricanes center Ma'a Nonu scored a 70th-minute try.
Even then, the Highlanders hit back with a try to substitute Bronson Murray in the third minute of stoppage time.
"The key messages tonight were to enjoy ourselves and to play with attitude for 80 minutes and scoring a try in the final minute was pleasing," Highlanders captain Jimmy Cowan said.
Hurricanes flanker Karl Lowe scored in the third minute and Cruden converted for a 7-0 lead but the Highlanders again hit back within five minutes with a try to Cowan, converted by Dagg.
Hurricanes lock Michael Paterson put his side ahead 12-7 after 10 minutes but, again, the Highlanders hit back with a try to backrower Alando Soakai.
Hurricanes halfback Tyson Keats increased the lead with a 22nd-minute try but the Highlanders responded through winger Ben Smith.
Cruden crossed for the Hurricanes in the 36th minute but Highlanders got a try before halftime via prop Jason Rutledge.
Final Score Highlanders 31 Hurricanes 33
Tries - J. Cowan, A Soakai, B. Smith, J. Rutledge, B.Murray
Con - I.Dagg 3
Tries - K.Low, M Paterson, T. Keats, A Cruden, M Nonu
Con - A Cruden 4
Referee: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Josh Noonan (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Highlanders - 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Kenny Lynn, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Jimmy Cowan (c), 8 Steven Setephano, Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Clint newland, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Chris King.
Reserves: 16 Peter Mirrielees, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Tuineau, 19 John Hardie, 20 Scott Cowan, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 James Paterson.
Hurricanes - 1. John Schwalger,2. Andrew Hore (captain) ,3. Neemia Tialata,4. Bryn Evans,5. Michael Paterson,6. Victor Vito ,7. Karl Lowe,8. Rodney So’oialo ,9. Tyson Keats,10. Aaron Cruden,11. Hosea Gear ,12. Ma’a Nonu,13. Conrad Smith,14. Tamati Ellison ,15. Cory Jane
Reserves :16. Dane Coles,17. Jacob Ellison ,18. Jeremy Thrush,19. Nick Crosswell ,20. Piri Weepu,21. Jason Kawau,22. David Smith