First-half tries from Lachie Turner and Aidan Toua set the Reds on their way to a 27-17 win over last season's finalists the Brumbies.
Richard Graham's outfit were made to sweat following the second half sin-binning of prop Greg Holmes but held out as the Brumbies hit back, doing enough to secure the win with a strong defensive display under huge pressure.
More of a Wallabies audition than the free-scoring fixture earlier on Saturday in Dunedin, both teams battled endlessly at the breakdown in a contest to slow down the opposition's attack.
Wallaby half-backs Will Genia and Quade Cooper were both in fine form as the visitors secured a rare win over their Australian Conference rivals.
Jesse Mogg opened the scoring with a penalty in the eighth minute as the Brumbies controlled the early territory, with Henry Speight wowing the crowd with a couple of breaks down each touchline.
The Brumbies opted to use Nic White's boot from close range and the Wallaby scrum-half made sure with his first attempt to put last year's finalists into a 6-0 lead.
Lachie Turner then capped his Reds debut with a super finish in the corner, Cooper's long pass releasing the former Waratah as he touched down beating White in the process. Cooper's conversion from out on the touchline put the visitors ahead.
Aidan Toua then lit up the match with an outstanding try, bursting on to a flat pass from Cooper and putting his injury nightmares behind him with a jaw-dropping burst of speed to dummy his way over.
Turner's great first half continued with a try-saving tackle on Mogg in the corner, rolling the Wallaby full-back as he went for the line in a top-class bit of defence. Mogg though did add three points as the Brumbies scored their third penalty of the match.
A penalty against the Brumbies for not releasing helped Cooper restore the Reds' eight-point lead, the Australia number ten playing with real composure and punishing the Brumbies when the opportunities arose. It meant the Reds lead 17-9 at the break.
Mogg's third penalty after the interval kept the Brumbies in touch but a costly error from Tevita Kuridrani handed Cooper a simple shot to keep that eight-point gap on the scoreboard.
Greg Holmes was sent to the bin on the 53rd minute as multiple discrepancies racked up against the Reds, opening a window for the Brumbies to grab their first try with a scrum under the posts.
Mogg had been denied in the first half but the Reds couldn't stop his gliding run from deep in the second, the full-back scampering over the hosts' first try of the season. His conversion was amiss to keep the Reds ahead, but only by three points at 17-20.
The Brumbies however developed a frustrating knack of conceding penalties as soon as they scored points. Fortunately Cooper was wide with the resulting shot at goal.
Dropping a man from the pack was a huge loss for the Reds and they nearly paid the price when the Brumbies attacked from a rolling maul, bursting round the corner but only for Scott Sio to be held up short. Their second attempt was stopped by desperate defence, the Reds winning the scrum and clearing their lines.
With Holmes back on the field the Reds' compliment was restored but their discipline couldn't last forever as Mogg was handed the chance to land his fifth penalty. He couldn't make it, the score sitting at 17-20 with eight minutes left.
When it mattered most the Reds' scrum came good, winning a crucial 50/50 penalty after a big previous engagement to clear their lines and run down the clock.
For such a disciplined match from both teams, it ended in a comedy of errors. Cooper's kick to touch from a penalty didn't find the touchline but Mogg spilled the ball, offering it up on a plate for Chris Feauai-Sautia who swooped and ran under the posts to secure the win.
It was fair reward for their effort, even denying the Brumbies a losing bonus point at the death to give the 2011 champions the perfect start to the season.
Pens: Mogg 3, White
Tries: Turner, Toua, Feauai-Sautia
Cons: Cooper 3
Pens: Cooper 2
Yellow Card: Holmes
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben Mowen (c), 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaridh Murphy, 19 Leon Power, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffman, 22 Lionel CronjÃ©, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Ian Smith (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)