The Waratahs moved top of the Australian conference on Saturday as they saw off the Crusaders 32-22 with a try bonus-point in Sydney.
Defeat means the Crusaders are all but out of the running for the play-offs after they suffered their seventh loss of the Super Rugby campaign.
In a game that promised much, it lived up to its billing early on with two tries inside six minutes thrilling the watching supporters in Sydney.
The Crusaders would strike first with a try as Nemani Nadolo finished well in the left corner following slick hands that began due to Waratahs wing Taqele Naiyaravoro losing the ball at the kick-off. Dan Carter couldn't make it a seven-point advantage however as his conversion was wide.
Back came the 'Tahs though with their own dangerous finisher, Naiyaravoro, making amends for his mistake as he was put over by full-back Israel Folau. Bernard Foley succeeded where Carter failed from the touchline as a frantic start saw the hosts edge ahead on the scoreboard.
Carter moved the Crusaders back in front on thirteen minutes with a penalty after hooker Tolu Latu was pinged for side entry. And the Waratahs hooker was in further bother soon after when referee Marius van der Westhuizen showed him a yellow card for a tip tackle on lock Sam Whitelock.
Surprisingly it was the Waratahs who profited in the subsequent ten minutes as, despite being a man, down they added ten points to their tally thanks to a Foley penalty before Colin Slade fumbled to allow wing Rob Horne a clean run to the try-line from halfway. It was now 17-8 to the champions.
The second-half started strongly for the Waratahs, who extended their lead by three points on 43 minutes when Jordan Taufua was penalised for side entry. Foley made no mistake but was off-target six minutes later following a scrum penalty going against Owen Franks near the touchline.
Both teams would cross the whitewash before the hour mark as first Naiyaravoro was sent over by Folau for the second time to make it 25-8 but then Richie McCaw responded in fortuitous fashion, with Nadolo's loose carry five metres out squirting into the flank's grasp to cut the gap.
At 25-15 there was still plenty left in the contest as the Crusaders desperately needed a win to keep their play-off hopes alive in 2015. And with their tails up, they further reduced the margin on 65 minutes when replacement Matt Todd crossed at the back of a maul to make it 25-22.
The game was now in the balance but when McCaw was sent to the sin-bin for a ruck offence, the Crusaders would have to complete to the revival with fourteen men. They could not manage it and in fact the Waratahs would have the final say, with Foley collecting his own chip and sliding over for the bonus-point try.
Tries: Naiyaravoro 2, Horne, Foley
Con: Foley 3
Pen: Foley 2
Tries: Nadolo, McCaw, Todd
Con: Carter 2
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Israel Dagg, 23 Jone Macilai.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Michael Hogan
TMO: Peter Marshall