In-form centre Ma'a Nonu's 50th Super Rugby try helped the Hurricanes to an important 22-18 victory over the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday.
Nonu touched down twice as the tournament leaders outscored their Kiwi rivals three tries to two in a high-quality game at Westpac Stadium.
The result sees the 'Canes open up a 13-point gap on the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference and represents a massive step towards a home semi-final with four rounds of the regular season remaining.
The game was not without controversy though as the Chiefs were denied a try at the death for a knock-on, although replays showed it was a Hurricanes hand on the ground that dislodged the ball meaning the visitors could have had a penalty – at least.
Nonu had yet to score this season but, in the absence of All Black rival Sonny Bill Williams, his brace is likely to have a massive impact on the outcome of the tournament.
It was the Chiefs who led 13-10 at the interval thanks to a try from centre Charlie Ngatai on the stroke of half-time.
There was very little to chose between the teams in the opening period, although the Hurricanes had controlled the game on the scoreboard for most of the half after Nonu's early try.
Ardie Savea's try soon after the break put the hosts back in front before Nonu's second gave the 'Canes some breathing room.
The game went down to the wire though as the Chiefs replied through Sam Cane to set up a grandstand finish.
The Hurricanes were first to strike when Nonu stepped passed Damian McKenzie, who had rushed up in defence, to ghost over under the sticks.
'Canes fly-half James Marshall, who had shaken off injury concerns in the build up, stepped up to slot the easy conversion and cap a perfect start for the home side.
McKenzie pulled three points back with a penalty but shortly thereafter the diminutive fly-half couldn't hold onto a difficult pass with the tryline begging after excellent work from Bryce Heem and Brad Weber leaving the 'Canes ahead 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Another breakdown penalty meant McKenzie could cut the gap to a single point but Marshall replied in kind and it looked like the Hurricanes would head into the break in front.
With Brodie Retallick already playing waterboy, the Chiefs lost both their starting locks inside with first half with a sickening knee injury to Michael Allardice sure to have long-term consequences.
But the visitors landed a telling blow with seconds of the first half remaining after another strong run from Heem put Ngatai over. McKenzie, who played a key role in the build-up to the try, added the easy extras to give the Chiefs a three-point head start for the second half.
After the restart, the 'Canes rolled the dice as they turned down a series of kickable penalties in favour of chasing a try and they were rewarded when Ardie Savea broke off the back of a maul to muscle his way over in the corner.
Marshall's conversion effort sailed wide, leaving the Hurricanes 15-13 up with a lot of rugby still to play.
Chiefs replacement forward Liam Squire was shown a harsh yellow card for lifting Nonu in a tackle before the visitors were given a massive left off when Nonu lost control of the ball in the act of crossing the try-line.
The All Black centre made amends though as he intercepted and raced home from half way. Marshall's conversion gave the hosts a nine-point lead.
Chiefs flank Cane crashed over off the back of a maul in the 74th minute but, crucially, the conversion was off target, meaning the visitors needed another try to snatch the win.
And it looked like they had scored in the dying momenst when Augustine Pulu crossed, only for the TMO to deny the try.
With the Chiefs missing their locks, their scrum buckled under pressure five metres from the Hurricanes line, handing the home side their eleventh win of the season.
Tries: Nonu 2, A. Savea
Cons: Marshall 2
Tries: Ngatai, Cane
Pens: McKenzie 2
Yellow card: Squire
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Mark Abbott/Callum Gibbins, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Otere Black, 23 Rey Lee-Lo.
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Bryce Heem.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Aki Aso
TMO: Vinny Munro