The Western Force claimed just their third win of the Super Rugby season as they edged the Rebels 13-11 in Melbourne on Friday.
The result is not enough to lift the Force off the foot of the overall table, but the team from Perth end their season on a winning note with a victory built on a courageous defensive effort.
Indeed, the Rebels dominated both in terms of territory and possession but were unable to put the finishing touch on a number of opportunities. They will finish the season in 10th place.
Rebels full-back Mike Harris will be kicking himself for missing what would have been the winning drop-goal at the death in a game the home side really should have won.
A try-less first half came to an end with the Force leading 6-3 thanks to two penalties from fly-half Zack Holmes.
The Rebels had done most of the playing but two disallowed tries – one for each team – ensured that the opening period was short on highlights as the Force's spoiling tactics disrupted the hosts' rhythm.
The trend continued in the second half as Rebels full-back Harris levelled the scores around the 50-minute mark.
Force winger Luke Morahan's late try against the run of play put the Force back in front but Telusa Veainu went over for the Rebels to set up a tense finish.
Force prop Chris Heiberg was held up over the line and Rebels wing Cam Crawford was denied try after Tom English was harshly adjudged to have caused obstruction in the build-up, meaning two penalties from Holmes and one from Harris were the only scores of the first half.
Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham came close to scoring around the hour mark but knocked on over the line, so the game entered the final quarter with the scores locked at 6-all.
The Force landed the telling blow when, with the Rebels almost certain to score from a three-man overlap, Marcel Brache intercepted and raced clear before offloading to Morahan for a length-of-the field try.
Holmes added the conversion but the Rebels were able to strike right back as the pressure final told.
Crawford found Veainu out wide and the replacement winger's pace was enough to take him into the corner.
Crucially, Harris missed the conversion though, leaving the Force with a two-point lead in the dying minutes.
Then Harris had loads of time, but sent his drop attempt wide to hand the Force and hard-fought win.
Pens: Harris 2
Pens: Holmes 2
Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Jordy Reid, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Tom English.
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Chris Alcock, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Patrick Dellit, 24 Oliver Hoskins.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Ed Martin (both Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)