Chiefs captain Brad Weber concedes his side missed a crucial opportunity to close the gap in the New Zealand conference after a 23-17 defeat against the Lions.
After going winless in their first five games, the Chiefs were on a three-game win streak, but their unbeaten run was brought to a screaming halt.
The Johannesburg-based Lions raced out to a 20-0 halftime lead before the Chiefs fought back in the second stanza, but they fell just short as first-five Elton Jantjies slotted a late drop goal to put the result beyond doubt.
The result leaves them in fourth place in the New Zealand conference, but they could have gone to third-equal with a win and now face the prospect of dropping to last if the Highlanders beat the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday.
Things don't get any easier for the Chiefs either, with away matches against the Hurricanes and Highlanders coming up in the next week.
Weber said it was "100 percent" an opportunity missed.
"They taught us a lesson," the halfback said. "Giving a team like the Lions 20 points, you're going to make it tough for yourselves.
"We felt like we were the team with the most energy going into that last 20 minutes. If there was an extra five minutes, maybe we would have won the game.
"To push them right to the end's pleasing, but at the same time we need to be a hell of a lot better if we're wanting to go a long way in this comp."
The Chiefs were missing a number of frontline players including All Blacks trio Brodie Rettallic, Nathan Harris and Damian McKenzie - who is out for the rest of the year with a knee injury.
During the match they lost Jack Debreczeni, who was stretched off the field after picking up a concussion.
Coach Colin Cooper said his side was poor as they made too many mistakes at crucial times.
"We turned the ball over 21 times, they're too good a team to do that [against]. We came back, and we could have snuck that game, but we turned the ball over at crucial times.
"Towards the end, we tried to kick a bit more than we should have, and probably in the first half we should have kicked it better, and more."
For the Lions, the win lifts them up to second in the South African conference with five wins and four losses.
Strength and conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen was pleased to get the win after the considering the week his team has had.
They first lost winger Courtnall Skosan who flew home to be with his father, while head coach Swys de Bruin also returned to South Africa for personal reasons. On top of that, assistant coach Joey Mongalo was found guilty of indecent assault, following an incident in Sydney last year.
"It's been a tough week. The guys really managed to focus well for the 80 minutes and we started well," said van Rooyen.
"We've got a big family ethos back home, so it's literally like losing a dad this week, so I think the performance shows you how much they care about him, how much we miss him.
"The guys really put their body on the line defensively. There was a clear plan from the senior players, I think they stuck to that tonight."
The Lions face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday in a rematch of the last two Super Rugby grand finals.