The Chiefs were victorious in Hamilton while the Highlanders suffered defeat in Canberra in Friday night's Super Rugby action
The Chiefs held off a second half fightback from 14-man Western Force to secure a 35-27 victory to go to the top of the Super Rugby standings.
The Highlanders remain third in the Zealand conference after being beaten 31-18 by the ACT Brumbies.
The bonus-point win at Waikato Stadium put the Chiefs, champions in 2012 and 2013, four points clear of early season pacesetters the Hurricanes, who play the Queensland Reds on Sunday.
A try from flanker Angus Cottrell had given the Force an early lead but it always looked like being a tough evening for the visitors after they lost scrumhalf Ian Prior to a red card for a tip tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams in the 29th minute.
Centre Charlie Ngatai scored the Chiefs' opening try with a superb long-range effort in the 19th minute, hooker Hika Elliot crossed for the second just before halftime and a penalty try just after the break put the home side well in charge at 30-8.
Winger Luke Morahan got a second Force try in the 56th minute, however, and skipper Matt Hodgson, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, scored a third six minutes later to cut the deficit to 30-22.
Nanai-Williams capped a livewire performance with a brilliant solo try to secure the bonus point for the Chiefs a couple of minutes later but replacement hooker Heath Tessmann then got a fourth for the Force to set up a tense last three minutes.
Marty McKenzie replaced All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden, whose season was ended by a knee injury sustained in last week's win over the Crusaders, and he put in an assured all-round performance with 15 points from the kicking tee.
It was a ninth straight defeat for the Perth-based Force since their opening round victory over reigning champion New South Wales Waratahs and they remain rooted to the bottom of the standings.
Meanwhile in Canberra, the Highlanders were weakened by the absence of Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekito, who were allowed the week off to comply with New Zealand's request to give All Black players some breaks ahead of this year's World Cup.
The Dunedin-based outfit were also missing a handful of players through injury and were instantly up against it when they fell 17-nil behind after just 14 minutes.
David Pocock scored a first half hat-trick of tries as the Brumbies snapped a two-match losing streak.
Boosted by the return of Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani and a revamped lineup, the Brumbies cemented their position at the head of the Australian conference standings with the bonus-point win.
Lima Sopoaga banged over two penalties to get the visitors on the scoreboard but Pocock's second and third five-pointers and the unerring boot of Christian Leali'ifano saw the Brumbies go to the break leading 31-6.
With a 25-point lead and a bonus point already in the bag, the Brumbies took their foot off the gas in the second half, failing to add to their first-half haul and allowing the Highlanders to close the gap.
Shaun Treeby crashed over from close range shortly after the restart then replacement loose forward Dan Pryor scored from a rolling mall to cut the deficit to 13 points with 22 minutes remaining.
The final result could have been closer had the Highlanders not run out of reserves and played the last quarter with only 14 men.