The Hurricanes have held on for a thrilling 22-21 Super Rugby Pacific victory after the Highlanders were denied a try after the full-time siren.
Highlanders substitute Saula Ma'u thought he had scored the winning try after barging through a desperate Hurricanes defence in the 81st minute on Saturday's clash in Dunedin.
But replays showed Ma'u was brought down just short of the line, with the ball then hidden from view as he made a couple of desperate moves forward while still on the ground.
The on-field referee called it a no-try, and the decision was upheld by TMO.
"I think that call could have gone either way," Savea said.
"I'm just grateful we got the call. I think we put ourselves under that pressure.
"We had a decent lead in that game, and I think our discipline let us down and let them back in the game.
"The Highlanders never go away. It's a credit to them. It's just really lucky we got away with the win."
The Hurricanes led for most of the match and by 14-6 at halftime after Bailyn Sullivan and Salesi Rayasi scored first-half tries.
The Highlanders rallied in the second half, cutting the Hurricanes' advantage to 17-14 in the 58th minute. They hit the lead for the first time in the 66th minute with a try to Marty Banks, whose conversion put them ahead 21-17.
But replacement Aidan Morgan scored in the 75th minute to reclaim the lead for the Hurricanes and they just held on for their fourth win in eight matches, while the Highlanders have only one win in eight games this season.
Highlanders lock Josh Dickson was red carded in the 19th minute after collecting Hurricanes prop Tevita Mafileo in the head with his left shoulder.
Highlanders 21 (Tries: Makalio try, Hicks try, Cons: Banks 1, Pens: Banks 3) Hurricanes 22 (Tries: Sullivan try, Rayasi try, Morgan try, Cons: Barrett 2, Pens: Barrett 1). HT: 6-14.
HIGHLANDERS: 15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Sam Gilbert,13 Denny Solomona, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Dan Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Mau, 19 Max Hicks, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Fetuli Paea.
HURRICANES: 15 Joshua Moorby, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tevita Mafileo, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Pouri Rakete-Stones.
Replacements: 16 Kianu Kereru-Symes, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Justin Sangster, 20 Caleb Delany, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Aidan Morgan, 23 Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Referee: Angus Mabey
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Mike Winter