The Highlanders have lost their third Super Rugby game in four this season.
The Western Force beat the luckless Highlanders 31-29 under the roof in Dunedin, despite being down to 13 men by the final whistle.
The Perth-based side looked to have the game in the bag when their fourth try of the night gave them a 31-16 lead after 57 minutes, having led 21-16 at half-time.
But the Highlanders finished the game strongly, with Malakai Fekitoa's try closing the gap to 10 points, before Force duo Adam Coleman and Ben McCalman were sent off in the 72nd minute.
The odds heavily favoured the Highlanders from that point on, but the Force held on grimly
The Force have now won the last six clashes between the two teams.