The Highlanders have taken advantage of Melbourne Rebels' sin-bin to claim a 42-27 victory but have missed out on a crucial bonus-point at Leichhardt Oval.
The contest was originally scheduled to be played in Queenstown, but with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, the Highlanders had to scramble across the ditch to play at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.
The Rebels had won the previous two meetings and looked like causing a boilover early in the second half but a cynical yellow card to Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese swung the contest in the Highlanders favour.
In that 10-minute period, the Highlanders ran in three tries to go from trailing to 20-points in front and claim a six tries to four Super Rugby Trans-Tasman victory.
The result sees the Highlanders move up to fourth but crucially two points behind the Blues and Hurricanes who are on a perfect 15 points.
The Highlanders came out on fire when Michael Collins ran onto a brilliant Aaron Smith chip kick to open the scoring after three minutes.
The home side extended their lead when Patelesio Tomkinson showed great footwork to beat a defender and open up a 14-point lead.
Marika Koroibete was one of the best for the Rebels with 70 run metres, two line breaks and five tackle breaks as he sparked his side into life.
The barnstorming wing broke two tackles to finish off a great team try to reduce the deficit to just nine points, 13 minutes before the break.
The Rebels finished the half in style when prop Cabous Eloff - who was denied just seconds earlier - muscled his way over to see the visitors trail 14-12 at halftime.
The Melbourne side hit the front for the first time when George Worth nailed a 50-metre penalty goal four minutes into the second half to set up the prospect of two consecutive victories by an Australian team.
But the crucial moment in the contest came when prop Uelese was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately kicking the ball out of the ruck after two successive penalties.
In the 10 minutes Uelese was off, the Highlanders were clinical as they ran in three quick tries to open up a 20-point lead.
The first came from a massive Highlanders scrum, which saw Paul Williams award a penalty try before a Rebels error handed Josh Dickson his second try of the year.
Three minutes later, Jona Nareki produced a moment of brilliance. With nothing on, the wing chipped over the top and got a favourable bounce to beat Joe Powell and grab the Highlanders fifth of the afternoon.
The southerners then had their own discipline issues as Billy Harmon was sent to the sin-bin, which saw the Rebels ran in a try through Matt Gibbon to set up an intriguing finish.
Koroibete capped off his brilliant afternoon when he scored his second of the game two minutes from time before Harmon crashed over with just second remaining to give the Highlanders one attacking play for a bonus point.
They thought they had it when Smith reached out to score, but he knocked on in the process to deny them the crucial extra point.
Highlanders 42 (Collins, Tomkinson, Penalty Try, Dickson, Nareki, Harmon tries; Hunt 5 conversions) bt Rebels 27 (2 Koroibete, Eloff, Gibbon tries; To'omua 2 conversions, Worth penalty goal)