The Cheetahs moved into the Super Rugby play-offs zone on Saturday after beating the Kings 26-12 in Bloemfontein.
The result leaves the Cheetahs one point behind the Bulls at the summit of the South African conference with four points guaranteed from their bye next week.
The Free Staters will nevertheless rue missing a four-try bonus point that seemed well within their reach.
The Cheetahs led 15-9 at the interval thanks to tries from prolific wing Raymond Rhule and flank Lappies Labuschagne, while Kings fly-half Demetri Catrakilis kicked three penalties to keep his team in the hunt.
A try for wing Willie le Roux and two more penalties from fly-half Burton Francis in the second half proved enough for the hosts to secure the spoils.
The Kings looked the part early on, running everything at the Cheetahs with the likes of number eight Jacques Engelbrecht keeping the Cheetahs' defence busy. They put the hosts under pressure which resulted in the hosts kicking away possession.
The Kings' inability to keep possession at the breakdown, however, posed problems for them.
The Cheetahs put the first points on the board when the visitors gave away possession and Cheetahs' scrum-half Piet van Zyl broke away. Speedster Raymond Rhule followed up and beat two Kings' defenders for his fifth try of the Super Rugby season.
The Cheetahs gave away numerous penalties in the first half, with Catrakilis capitalising, but their first try gave the home side valuable momentum which they utilised at every opportunity.
Francis kicked a penalty to give his side a five-point advantage in the 16th minute, but Catrakilis answered in kind after the hosts infringed at the break down area.
Ten minutes before half-time, the Cheetahs scored their second try after Labuschagne scored after another brilliant break by Van Zyl.
Francis converted, leaving the Kings trailing by nine points. The hosts discipline let them down once again and Catrakilis reduced the deficit to six points with his third successful penalty kick to leave the score 15-9 at half-time in favour of the Cheetahs.
The hosts started the second half at a mediocre pace, but soon played with the same attacking prowess they showed in the first half. Putting together some good attacking phases, it was only a matter of time before Le Roux scored the Cheetahs third try of the evening.
The Kings defended for most part of the first five minutes, but got some reward for their efforts when Catrakilis kicked his fourth penalty. Francis replied for the Cheetahs after big lock Ligtoring Landman was held up over the goal line in the wake of a penalty advantage.
Once again, it left the Kings 11 points short and they opted to kick for touch rather than goal with their next penalty.
The Cheetahs' solid defence, however, left no holes for the visitors and they in turn started to lose what little momentum they had. The hosts progressed to the Kings goal line once again, but this time Francis kicked a penalty to help settle things down.
The last couple of minutes of the game became really scrappy as the Cheetahs searched in vain for a bonus point try.
Tries: Rhule, Labuschagne, Le Roux
Pens: Francis 3
Pens: Catrakilis 4
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss (c), 11 Michael Killian, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Rynier Bernado, 4 Steve Sykes, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Siviwe Soyizwapi.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa),Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)