The Lions fought back to beat the Waratahs 44-26 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg and book their place in their third successive Super Rugby final.
The Waratahs raced into a 14-point lead inside 10 minutes, but just like last week against the Jaguares, the Lions clawed their way back.
Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx both grabbed a brace as the Lions turned on the style in the City of Gold, running in six tries in a thrilling semi-final.
Aphiwe Dyantyi scored a sensational 80-metre try to bring his team within two points, but he left the field with a hamstring injury.
His replacement, Courtnall Skosan, supplied the Coup de Grâce.
It was another golden performance by Marx, who beat his own forward try-scoring record with his 11th five-pointer of the season.
Man of the Match Smith was incredible, as both forwards dominated the breakdown as well as the scoreboard.
Ned Hanigan and Israel Folau scored early tries, giving the Tahs a shock lead.
It did not last as the Lions – and the altitude – overcame the tourists.
The South Africans scored three tries in 14 minutes to lead 19-14 before Tom Robertson’s try on the stroke of halftime, drew the game level.
Swys de Bruin’s men came out firing after the break, scoring twice through Marx and Smith while Damien Fitzpatrick was in the sin-bin.
Jake Gordon scored late in the game before Skosan finished off the Australians.
It is the fourth defeat on the bounce for New South Wales against the Lions.
The Sydney men started at a frantic pace.
Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley switched positions, taking the ball deep behind the advantage line, which caused havoc for the opposition’s defence.
Beale was the architect for the first try, attacking the space and sending a long pass to Hanigan alone on the wing.
Four minutes’ later Folau crossed, beating two forwards with a shimmy, a shake of the hips and his electric pace.
The Lions had been in this position before with opposition teams’ blistering starts on the Highveld.
They kept their cool, going to their driving maul or using quick-tap and goes to catch sides unawares.
Breakdown dominance and powerful driving mauls pulverise the Tahs.
Marx, Smith and Franco Mostert wreaked all sorts of carnage at the ruck, turning over possession and winning penalties.
Mostert’s ball carrying was relentless, while Marx and Smith’s open-field running and offloading kept the Lions on the front foot.
Smith’s barnstorming run set his team on their way, the sevens specialist is bringing his BlitzBokke form to the 15-man game.
The game was open. NSW was looking set to score a third before Marx intercepted and charged up the field.
The ball was lost and sent into the home team’s 22, setting up one of the tries of any season.
Dyantyi collected the ball inside his 22 and took on the onrushing defenders.
They stood no chance because nobody envisaged the superb vision of the youngster.
The winger chipped, chased and regathered before swerving Foley at halfway and running in untouched: glorious.
Unfortunately, the 23-year-old did not return after the break, leaving the game injured.
The Waratahs were starting to feel the effects of their long travel as well as the altitude.
They tried to slow the game down, but their hosts increased the tempo and intensity.
The driving maul started to dismantle the Tahs. One maul was marched 40 metres down the field, pummeling the opposition pack.
One such maul finished with a routine Marx try to put the home team in front.
Then a sneaky well-worked lineout move came of perfectly for New South Wales, leaving Robertson to stroll over and level the game at halftime.
That was as good as it would get for a tiring Tahs.
The Lions scrum started to take charge after the interval.
The pack won scrum-penalties and free-kicks as the Australians wilted.
The game being level and a knockout fixture, captain Warren Whiteley opted for a shot at goal.
Somehow Jantjies missed from in front, hitting the post.
Marx and Smith won penalties at the breakdown in quick succession before Jantjies’ 55th-minute penalty put the Lions in front.
De Bruin’s men were on the charge, but it was Fitzpatrick’s yellow card, two minutes’ later, that helped break the game open.
Two tries by Marx and Smith and 12 points were given up by the 14-man Waratahs.
The Springboks hooker crashed over after another powerful driving maul, then Smith, seeing nobody defending the righthand pillar of the ruck, broke free and sped away for an easy score.
Time was running out for the visitors. They could not get any possession or take the few chances when they came.
Strong defending on their goal-line by the hosts kept them out.
With less than five minutes to play, Jantjies attempted a long-range penalty from behind halfway.
Ruan Combrinck would usually take a shot with his big boot, but for some reason, the flyhalf called for the tee.
Lions fans need not have worried because Jantjies’ kick sailed over the crossbar, putting the game to rest.
Gordon scored at the end but Skosan and his team had the final say.
Final score: Lions 44 (19) Waratahs 26 (19)
Tries – K. Smith (2), Dyantyi, Marx (2), Skosan
Pen – Jantjies (2)
Con – Jantjies (4)
Tries – Hanigan, Folau, Robertson, Gordon
Con – Foley (3)
Cards – Fitzpatrick, (Yellow, 57′)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 2: Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Marius Jonker
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Lourens Erasmus, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley (captain), 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Will Miller, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Cam Clark.