Not for the first time this season, the boot of Cheetahs fly-half Johan Goosen paved the way for a victory for the men from Bloemfontein as they beat the Sharks 53-32.
While the Cheetahs only outscored their visitors five tries to four, Goosen's 28-point haul was the difference between the two sides. The 19-year-old ran the show for the Cheetahs, proving dangerous with the ball in hand and with the boot.
Goosen and Sharks fly-half Frederic Michalak traded early penalties before the men in black scored the first try of the match despite having spent the first quarter under the cosh.
Stefan Terblanche was the man to cross the whitewash after good work in the build-up from Michalak, Marius Joubert and Sibusiso Sithole.
Having missed the conversion, Michalak put the Sharks ahead with a penalty soon after but it was then that Goosen took control of proceedings.
Bursting through the midfield inside his own half, Goosen exchanged passes with Robert Ebersohn before crossing over for his first Currie Cup try.
Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo and Cheetahs flanker Pieter Labuschagne both dotted down before the break to hand the home side a 23-18 lead at the break.
Goosen added a drop goal and a penalty shortly after the break before Mvovo added his second try after an explosive run up the middle.
Another penalty from Goosen kept the Cheetahs in front but it was a try from number eight Ashley Johnson that looked to be the turning point. It wasn't the five-pointer itself that proved crucial but rather that Sharks replacement Jan Andre Marais was yellow carded for a high tackle in the build-up.
Against fourteen men the Cheetahs rammed home their advantage, with Labuschagne picking up his second try before replacement scrum-half dived over for the Cheetahs' fifth touchdown.
Jacques Botes ensured the Sharks at least left with a bonus point as the flanker crossed over for the Sharks' bonus point try in the closing moments.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Goosen, Labuschagne 2, Johnson, de Bruyn
Cons: Goosen 4, Ebershon
Pens: Goosen 5
Tries: Terblanche, Mvovo 2, Botes
Cons: Michalak 2, Bosman
Yellow cards: Jan Andre Marais (Sharks - high tackle)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Andries Strauss.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper 17 Julian Redelinghuys 18 Jan Andre Marais 19 Marcell Coetzee 20 Ross Cronje 21 Adrian Jacobs 22 Louis Ludik.
Referee: Marius Jonker