The Highlanders have missed the opportunity to climb to second in the New Zealand Super Rugby conference after being pipped 29-28 by the cellar dwelling Stormers in Cape Town.
Prop Frans Malherbe waited 40 matches for a Super Rugby try then got two in the opening half hour as the Stormers hurt the Highlanders' playoff hopes with the one point victory.
Malherbe's double was followed by a third from centre-turned-wing Damian de Allende, before another prop, Oliver Kebble, also broke his Super Rugby duck when he barged over early in the second half.
First-five Kurt Colman kicked three conversions and Peter Grant added the winning penalty 15 minutes from the end in a game the South African side dominated in terms of territory and possession.
The Highlanders' tries came through halfback Aaron Smith, wing Trent Renata, fullback Ben Smith and centre Malakai Fekitoa, with first-five Lima Sopoaga kicking two conversions for the New Zealanders before being forced off with injury.
The Highlanders are level with the second placed Crusaders and third placed Hurricanes on 26 points but lie fourth in the New Zealand conference by virtue of points differential.