Crusaders wing Zac Guildford crossed twice to help his team to a crucial 23-16 win over the Blues to go top of the NZ Conference.
The defeat was the Blues' fourth on the trot and puts their participation in the play-offs in doubt after leading the standings earlier in the season. The visitors did however pick up a losing bonus point which could prove vital.
The match in Timaru certainly lives up to its hype, with the two Kiwi outfits giving their all in a titanic battle that proved costly for both teams after Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams and Blues flyer Rene Ranger left the field nursing injuries.
The Crusaders held a slender 13-11 lead at half-time, but struck immediately from the restart after Guildford ran in for his first try thanks to some good work from captain Kieran Read who caught the Blues napping.
The Blues clawed their way back to trail by just two points (18-16), and the result was only wrapped up in the 75th minute when Guildford went over for his second.
Both teams had try-scoring chances spilled with the tryline begging in the second half, after first Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis dropped a Robbie Fruean pass and then Blues centre Luke McAlister left the ball behind when crossing the whitewash.
The Blues began the match stronger, and wing Ranger had already glided over for a marvellous solo try before a McAlister penalty stretched the lead.
The boot of Crusaders pivot Dan Carter edged the hosts back into it, before a Blues scrum was disrupted and Ellis kicked the ball downfield to within 5m of the Blues' tryline. From the next ruck, flank Matt Todd stole the ball and crashed over.
Carter's conversion made it 10-8 after 19 minutes. The All Blacks number ten and McAlister then traded penalties and game was anyone's for the taking at half-time.
Guildford and Blues prop Charlie Faumuina exchanged tries early in the second period, and as the game tightened up it took a brilliant cross-field kick from Carter to provide Guildford with his second with five minutes remaining.
Tries: Todd, Guildford 2
Pens: Carter 2
Tries: Ranger, Faumuina,
Pens: McAlister 2
Crusaders: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Brent Ward, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Ryan Crotty.
Blues: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 John Afoa.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
Referee: Craig Joubert