The Blue Bulls retained their unbeaten status after grinding out a 24-17 victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria on Friday.
Both sides crossed for two tries which means the Bulls failed to secure a bonus-point for scoring four tries or more for the first time this season.
The victory moves Nollis Marais' charges provisionally into top spot on the Currie Cup table, four points clear of the Golden Lions, but the Johannesburg-based side can move a point clear at the top if, as expected, they win and secure a try-scoring bonus-point against the EP Kings on Saturday.
The Cheetahs had most of the possession during the opening half but had nothing to show for it. Fred Zeilinga lined up two penalty attempts inside the opening 20 minutes but both his efforts were wide of the mark.
The game came alive in the 20th minute when the Bulls got over for the opening try. Burger Odendaal dived over in the left-hand corner after Jamba Ulengo combined brilliantly with Warrick Gelant in the build-up.
The hosts extended their lead thanks to a penalty from Tian Schoeman and the Cheetahs were then reduced to 14 men when Luhan de Bruin received a yellow card for a late hit on Francois Hougaard in the 34th minute.
Schoeman added another three-pointer from the resulting penalty but the Cheetahs finally opened their account when Rayno Benjamin scored their first try after running onto a pass from Shaun Venter deep inside the Bulls' 22.
Zeilinga added the extras, which meant the Bulls led 11-7 at the break, and he reduced the defict to a point with another three-pointer shortly after the restart.
Schoeman then failed with two shots at goal and was replaced by Louis Fouche who gave his side a little bit of a cushion when he added a penalty in the 66th minute.
The Bulls then crossed for their second try, Dries Swanepoel rounding off fine work from Gelant and Jan Serfontein in the build-up.
The Cheetahs struck back with a late try from Sias Ebersohn before Fouche added another three-pointer to seal the win for the hosts.
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Odendaal, Swanepoel
Pens: Fouche 2, T Schoeman 2
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Benjamin, Ebersohn
Cons: Zeilinga, Blommetjies
Yellow card: De Bruin
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21, Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge