The Highlanders remain winless in 2013 after suffering a 19-7 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium on Friday.
It was a case of close but no cigar once again for the visitors, who were still in the hunt with twenty minutes of a tight Super Rugby tussle remaining.
However, Chiefs full-back Gareth Anscombe gave his team some breathing space with two late penalties to seal the win and deny the Highlanders a consolation bonus point.
Both sides managed just one try apiece, with Anscombe's boot ultimately proving the difference between the two sides as Colin Slade failed in the goal-kicking department - missing three of his four kicks.
Having trailed 13-7 at half-time, the Highlanders also failed to post any points in the second half and remain stranded at the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are now just two points adrift of the tournament-leading Brumbies and will be hoping the Stormers do them a favour in Cape Town on Saturday.
The defending champions were on the board first through an Anscombe penalty which was followed by an opportunistic try from Tim Nanai-Williams to put them 10-0 in front after 10 minutes.
The Chiefs centre pounced on a Highlanders knock-on, collected the loose ball and raced half the length of the field to score a converted try.
From then on it was all the Highlanders though as they piled on the pressure, having dominated possession and territory. Slade missed two penalties, but they were finally rewarded when Aaron Smith burrowed over in the 20th minute. Slade's conversion closed the gap to three points.
A yellow card to Highlanders flank Jarrad Hoeata allowed Anscombe to stretch the Chiefs' lead to a six-point margin at half-time, and the home side's kicking machine continued to find his target after the break with a string of penalties to inflict yet another loss on their Kiwi rivals.
Pens: Anscombe 4
Try: A Smith
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Romana Graham/Fritz Lee, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 August Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Richard Kahui/Patrick Osborne.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)