The Crusaders' run of seven consecutive Super Rugby Pacific titles has likely come to an end in Dunedin, going down 32-29 to the Highlanders.

The Crusaders have only two wins after 12 rounds and now have little chance of reaching the playoffs.

The Highlanders led 26-14 at halftime on Saturday and held on to post their fifth win of the season, and first win in three years over a New Zealand opponent.

The hosts opened the scoring through a runaway Tanielu Tele'a in the sixth minute.

A yellow card to Folau Fakatava soon after opened the door for the Crusaders to hit back, and they did so with tries to Sevu Reece and Dallas McLeod.

A five-pointer to Cam Millar put the Highlanders back in front and he added two penalties to push the halftime lead out to 12 points.

He finished with a personal haul of 27 points.

The visitors hit back with Reece scoring a second soon after the break, but two late Millar penalties extended the lead again.

A try to Crusaders winger Macca Springer after the fulltime siren cut the Highlanders' winning margin to just three.

Highlanders 32 [Tries: Tele’a, Millar; Cons: Millar 2; Pens: Millar 6] Crusaders 29 [Tries: Reece 2, McLeod, Springer; Cons: Fihaki 3; Pen: Fihaki]

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Jake Te Hiwi, 11 Martin Bogodo, 10 Cameron Millar, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Nikora Broughton, 7 Sean Withy, 6 Oliver Haig, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Mitch Dunshea, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Will Tucker, 20 Will Stodart, 21 James Arscott, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Finn Hurley.

Crusaders: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 David Havili, 9 Noah Hotham, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Corey Kellow, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams.
Replacements: 16 George Bell, 17 George Bower, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer.

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Jordan Way, Matt Kellahan
TMO: Brett Cronan