The Crusaders rallied from 21-17 down at halftime to beat last-placed Moana Pasifika 38-21 in a seventh-round match in Super Rugby Pacific in Christchurch.
Winger Timoci Tavatavanawai and centre Levi Aumua had superb games for the winless Moana Pasifika and shared three first-half tries as they dominated physically against the under-strength Crusaders on Friday.
The defending champion Crusaders have been out of form all season and produced another disorganised display.
The win lifted the Crusaders into third place at the start of the seventh round.
The Christchurch side finally came away with the match with three tries in the second half but the score over-stated their performance. The last try came just before the final whistle and inflated their winning margin.
The Crusaders led 31-21 in the 76th minute when Moana Pasifika winger Miracle Failangi dropped the ball with the goalline open, costing his team a try which would have made the last moments of the match more tense.
The edge held by the Crusaders was very slight. Hooker and captain Codie Taylor scored two first-half tries, the first created by five-eighth Richie Mo'unga in his 100th game for the Crusaders. The second was from a standard lineout drive.
"I think in the first half it felt like we had control at times and then Moana being Moana, they'd come away with a couple of moments," Taylor said.
"They're hard boys to put down, they got good momentum and scored some good points.
"In the second half we just had to come out and bring the heat a bit and I think we did that."
Aumua is now the best player in the league for beating tackles and metres made after contact, and showed that ability again Friday with some powerful runs.
He scored his first try in the 21st minute, beating three tackles, and his second in the 29th minute after an offload from Tavatavanawai.
Tavatavanawai moved from the left wing to the right but that didn't really matter: he was everywhere on the field and scored just before halftime in a movement in which he handled the ball four times.
Center Dallas McLeod scored in the 62nd minute and replacement halfback Willi Heinz sealed the win for he Crusaders just before the fulltime siren.