Israel Dagg's try saved the Crusaders' blushes as they beat the Cheetahs 28-21 in their Christchurch Stadium bow.
It was far from vintage rugby from the Super Rugby giants as they struggled at times against the fearless Bloemfontein outfit on Saturday.
The homecoming fixture was played in front of a sell-out crowd of 17,500, as Todd Blackadder's side outscored the Cheetahs three tries to two to open their new fortress with only their second win of the season from their four previous outings.
The Cheetahs cut down the Crusaders 15-point lead early in the second-half to be on level terms at 21-21 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
But as the clock counted down the Crusaders moved up a gear and Andy Ellis and Tom Taylor both went within a whisker of scoring before full-back Dagg crossed for the match-winning score.
A critical factor for the Crusaders was their pack, with an All Blacks front-row of hooker Corey Flynn and props Owen and Ben Franks who gave the Cheetahs a torrid time in the scrums early on.
It was from a scrum penalty just before half-time that led to the first try in the new stadium when Sean Maitland scored in the corner. Until then it had been an uninspiring encounter with two penalties to Taylor and one by Johan Goosen the only points on the board.
But that try lifted the intensity of the game with the Crusaders going into half-time with an 11-3 lead which was extended to 18-3 immediately after the break when Dan Carter emerged.
With his first touch of the ball in a game since being injured out of the World Cup six months ago, Carter neatly put Robbie Fruean into a gap and the big centre scored near the posts.
Taylor converted the extras and with their tails up the Crusaders immediately stormed deep into Cheetahs' territory only to cough up possession to the free-running South Africans.
From turnover ball on their own line the Cheetahs swept the length of the field with Goosen, Andries Strauss and Willie le Roux featuring in the move before Goosen crossed wide out.
Another exchange of penalties between Goosen and Taylor had the Crusaders leading 21-11 when the Cheetahs were rewarded for a patient build up with a try by Robert Ebersohn.
Goosen missed the conversion but evened the score with his third penalty of the spectacle.
But the hosts then mounted a wave of forward drives up to the Cheetahs line, drawing in the defence before Ellis sent the ball to Dagg to cross unopposed for the match-winning try.
Tries: Maitland, Freuan, Dagg
Con: Taylor 2
Pen: Taylor 3
Tries: Goosen, R Ebersohn
Pen: Goosen 3
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ross Kennedy, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Dan Carter, 22 Tom Marshall.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Cameron Jacobs, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Justin Downey, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 George Earle, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)