The Highlanders held off the Chiefs 25-15 in a thrilling contest in Dunedin to end the Chiefs' hopes of winning a home quarter-final in the Super Rugby playoffs.
The Chiefs' loss ensured the Hurricanes emerged the unlikely winners of the New Zealand conference hours after they stunned the Canterbury Crusaders 35-10 at their Christchurch stronghold for a bonus-point win.
Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga scored a 75th minute try to seal the win and added 10 points with his boot to whip up the sell-out crowd into a frenzy.
Waisake Naholo and Dan Pryor scored the other tries for the home side, with Toni Pulu and Lachlan Boshier crossing for the Chiefs.
Pulu, scored the opener in the 6th minute, before Naholo, grounded the ball in the right hand corner while cartwheeling into touch.
His captain, Ben Smith, also performed a cartwheel later at a ruck with help from Tom Sanders, which earned the Chiefs blind-side 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The visitors were ahead 7-5 at half-time, before the Highlanders took the lead after the break through Pryor's try.
Boshier responded with a five pointer for the Chiefs, before the Sopoaga dotted down a loose ball he regathered a metre short of the line.