The Lions came from behind to beat the Bulls 38-12 in a frenetic Jukskei derby at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
The win sees the Lions finish second on the Super Rugby log and book a home quarter-final.
Ruan Combrinck, a constant threat in the wide channels, bagged a brace.
It was a hard-fought victory, clawing back a 12-point 12-minute deficit by scoring six unanswered tires and run out comfortable winners.
A Battle Royale at the breakdown between Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx, with turnovers being won and lost at an epic rate and often leading to points.
The Bulls folded under the weight of the Lions pack whose driving maul dominated their opponents.
Combrinck, Marx and Courtnall Skosan put the hosts in front after Manie Libbok and Jesse Kriel’s early scores.
The Lions led 19-12 at the break.
The second-half was a tight, tense affair with the home team keeping their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the match.
The Lions dominated the Bulls pack and as the game went on, they continued to assert their authority.
They were eventually awarded a penalty try in the 63rd-minute.
It extended their lead to 14 before Combrinck and Aphiwe Dyanty finished off the Bulls.
Bulls start strong.
John Mitchell’s side came out firing in the biggest of South African derbies.
They raced into a two-try 12-point lead.
Libbok, in for Handre Pollard, scored a sensational try.
He stepped inside the defenders from inside his 22, and raced 85 metres, cutting inside Elton Jantjies to score under the poles.
Things got better when Kriel doubled the lead.
The Springboks centre, with a show-and-go, ghosted through two defenders and scored in the corner.
It came from another Van Staden turnover that set-up the counter-attack.
Van Staden was having the game of his life, winning three important turnovers at the breakdown.
He saved a possible Lions try and the other two turnovers were instrumental in setting up his team for their tries.
Marx, however, was on the opposite side, channelling his inner Bismarck du Plessis,
The hooker dominated the next series of rucks, challenging Van Staden and the Bulls, showing he was back.
Combrinck was over in the corner after some patient build-up.
The power game by the Lions, with their driving maul, set-up the score.
The home team’s maul and lineout were destroying the visitors, who were giving away penalty after penalty inside the red zone.
The referee warned the Bulls, but it made no difference because they could not stop the Joburg juggernaut.
On the half-hour, the Bulls’ resistance was broken.
The Lions scrum bulldozed them. The penalty was taken quickly and Marx was over for the game equalling try.
It got worse for the visitors when Pierre Schoeman was sin-binned for a late challenge.
Mitchell’s men’s ill-discipline was proving costly, and they could not get out of their 22.
Just before the break, the pressure told.
Skosan beat the outside defender and was away for the try.
The Bulls were lucky that he scored, or they would be another man down, instead, they were only seven points down.
The second stanza was attritional; both sides could not breach each other’s defence, and they were sloppy in good scoring zones.
It took 23 minutes for the first points to be scored.
The Lions were gaining the momentum, and their set-piece started to really dominate.
The Bulls scrum got dismantled.
The referee had no option but to award a penalty try. The Bulls set-pieces had been dominated by the Joburg men.
Jantjies missed the conversion, but the game was over as a contest.
The end was nigh.
The visitors thought they had scored.
Travis Ismaiel gathered Embrose Papier’s pass and was over under the posts, but the referee ruled out the score because he thought RG Snyman took out Francois Mostert.
It was a terrible call by the official.
The clock was winding down on the Blue Bulls’ season, they could be forgiven for a bit of complacency.
The hooter sounded, Dyantyi called and chased Ross Cronje’s kick.
Jamba Ullengo slipped between the Dyantyi and the ball and knocked it backwards.
Dyanti got up quicker than Ullengo and managed finger-tips on the ball to cap off a wonderful season.
The Lions will play the Jaguares in the quarter-final at Ellis Park.
Lions versus Bulls video highlights.
Final score: Lions 38 (19) Bulls 12 (12)
Tries – Combrinck (2), Marx, Skosan, Penalty try, Dyantyi,
Con – Jantjies (2), Coetzee
Tries – Libbok, Kriel
Con – Libbok
Cards – Schoeman (Yellow, 34′)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Christie du Preez
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nicholas Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Johannes Jonker, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Warrick Gelant, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg , 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Rudolph Snyman (Captain), 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Mornay Smit, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Nick de Jager, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Boeta Hamman, 23 Dries Swanepoel.