All Blacks winger Sevu Reece scored two first-half tries and fullback Will Jordan added a match-winner in the second half as the Crusaders beat the Highlanders 34-19 in their Super Rugby Pacific clash in Dunedin.
Friday night's derby match between teams from New Zealand's South Island was played with typical frenetic energy and featured five lead changes.
The outcome was in doubt until the 66th minute when Jordan waded through two tackles to finish a brilliant movement by the Crusaders.
The move was begun by winger Leicester Fainga'anuku, who had scored three tries in the Crusaders' 42-32 first-round win over the Hurricanes.
Fainga'anuku's pass out of the back of the hand put winger George Bridge into space and he connected with his All Blacks teammate Jordan for the decisive try.
The Highlanders led 13-0 after 14 minutes and stuck with the Crusaders through a series of lead changes.
But Jordan's try gave the 11-time champions their first decisive lead at eight points and the Crusaders made the win safe with a further try to replacement Tamati Williams three minutes before the end.
"I think the Highlanders — we knew their game plan — wanted to put the ball in behind us and really pressure the breakdown," Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said.
"Probably in the first half they had the better of that and probably frustrated us a little bit.
"I think we adapted and actually put the ball in behind them, turned their big boys around and forced their back three into some decisions."
The Highlanders made a strong start, taking the lead with a penalty to flyhalf Mitchell Hunt after five minutes then rocking the Crusaders with a try to Sam Gilbert who came off his wing and crashed through the Crusaders' midfield defence to score under the posts.
A further penalty to Hunt put the Highlanders ahead 13-0 in the 14th minute.
Reece led the Crusaders' comeback.
He dashed over from a quick, tapped penalty in the 16th minute when some of the Highlanders might have been impeded by Crusaders players who were still retreating.
Reece then scored in the 29th minute at the end of a move involving Jordan and centres David Havili and Braydon Ennor to give the Crusaders their first lead at 14-13.
The Highlanders reclaimed the lead with a penalty to Hunt but another penalty to the Crusaders put them ahead 17-16 at halftime.
Hunt kicked a penalty in the 46th minute which put the Highlanders ahead again, 19-17 and for the last time in the match.
A Fergus Burke penalty reclaimed the lead for the Crusaders, then Jordan's brilliant try made the lead decisive.
Highlanders 19 (Tries: Gilbert, Con: Hunt, Pens: Hunt 4) Crusaders 34 (Tries: Reece 2, Jordan, Williams, Cons: Burke 2, Hickey 2, Pens: Burke 2)
Highlanders: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Josh Timu, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Hugh Renton.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Fergus Burke, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Scott Barrett (captain), 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Oli Jager, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Shilo Klein, 17 George Bower, 18 Tamaiti Williams, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Bridge.
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Angus Mabey
TMO: Chris Hart