Highlanders' stand-in skipper Brad Thorn said his team's third defeat this season was hard to take after going down to the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes defeated the New Zealand conference cellar-dwellers 23-19, putting them in danger of falling out of the play-off race early in the season.
"To me it sucks, but nothing changes," said Thorn, who took over the captaincy when skipper Andrew Hore was forced off the pitch early on with an injury.
The Hurricanes scored three tries to one after a slow start to make it two wins from four this Super Rugby season.
"We were a little more direct and that's what got us the points in the end," captain Conrad Smith said after a win that helped boost the Hurricanes' season following a victory over the Crusaders last week.
The Highlanders' schedule doesn't get any easier, with a trip to Hamilton to play the defending champion Chiefs in store next week. Meanwhile the Hurricanes will get a week off, before hosting the Kings in Wellington.