Replacement first five Chris Noakes scored 17 points in 20 minutes as the Highlanders snatched a 36-33 victory over the Cheetahs in their round ten super rugby encounter in Bloemfontein.
The Highlanders had to rally from 30-9 down to record their seventh victory in nine matches and stay five points behind the leaders, the Chiefs, in the overall standings and the New Zealand conference.
Noakes, who replaced Mike Delany midway through the second half, grabbed a try, three conversions and two penalties, including an angled, long-range effort with one minute to go that won the match for the New Zealanders.
The Cheetahs seemed to have the match sewn up when first five Johan Goosen produced a jinking 70-metre try to put his team 28-9 up.
Goosen though, injured his shoulder while scoring the touchdown, and had to leave the field.
His withdrawal caused a spectacular turnaround as the Highlanders began throwing the ball around like a sevens side and were rewarded with three tries in six minutes, two by replacement half backJimmy Cowan.