The Blue bulls kept their hopes of securing a home semi-final alive by crawling home to a 36-32 victory over arch rivals Western Province at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Absa Currie Cup derby was a brutal battle between two of the toughest packs in the competition and as anticipated neither of the sides were willing to take unnecessary risks.
Though they looked the better of the two sides for most of the match, Province now have a mountain to climb if they wish to finish the round robin stage as runners up.
Next week they host the Sharks in a match which they have to win if they are to avoid playing their semi away from home.
The visitors dominated possession and territory in the first quarter but had to settle for two penalty conversions by flyhalf Willem de Waal where they could just as easily have scored the maximum.
The home side will be the first to admit that neither their kickers nor their chasers were putting enough pressure on Province's prolific back three while they kept wandering over the off-side line in defence.
Conrad Jantjes was solid under the high-bal and even when the home side managed to produce the rare turnover with the high-kick-and-charge strategy, they were beaten for pace at the breakdowns by an in-form Pieter Louw and Duane Vermeulen.
Both sides resorted to the boot for most of the first half and the first try of the match came shortly after the Blue Bulls opened their account.
Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter landed a long range penalty in the 20thminute to reduce the six-point lead to three, but from the returning kick-off veteran winger Jaco van der Westhuyzen fumbled, handing possession right back to the visitors.
This allowed the best defensive side in the competition to show their skill on attack with flank Francois Louw splitting the Bulls line and sending centre Juan de Jongh over under the posts in the 22nd minute.
Then in one of the first controversial moments of the match Dewald Potgieter, who came on as a blood substitution, was sent-off for allegedly tripping Province wing Gio Aplon as he followed up a sneaky chip-kick over the Bulls backline.
As it turned out, Aplon fell over his own feet, but despite the one-man shortage the Bulls kept their cool and stuck to their boot orientated plan.
Eventually they managed to capitalise on a Province error when, soon to be medical doctor, Okkie Kruger dived over for the home side's first five pointer.
This was a crucial turning point in the match and arguably the moment Province let their chance to win slip through their fingers.
Kruger's converted try reduced the deficit from 13 points to seven as the teams entered the tunnel at half time 16-10.
The players were barely back on the pitch when the second yellow card of the afternoon was shown.
This time Springbok centre Jean de Villiers was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on the Bulls pivot, and again it will be argued that the official's decision was a bit harsh.
Province were however not as fortunate as the Bulls who survived without one of their men and had to watch Potgieter convert a penalty while Man-of-the-Match centre Stefan Watermeyer went over for his team's second try.
The home side took the lead for the first time in the 45th minute but could never get the visitors off their backs.
Even when fullback Zane Kirchner stretched the lead to 27-19, Province always looked like they could come back as their forwards were fearless going into contact.
De Waal kept chipping away with his accurate boot and even though the Bulls added three more through a sneaky penalty by Van der Westhuyzen, the visitors never panicked.
There can be no better indication of just how physical the match was than the time hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle was forced to play flank, while skipper Derick Kuun had a blood injury attended to.
And unfortunately for the Springbok hooker, who enjoyed an outstanding afternoon in the run-on squad, his lapse in concentration allowed the men from Cape Town right back into the match.
Ralepelle flung a pass destined for wing Gerhard van den Heever, but it fell short of a lightning fast Gio Aplon who ran it over the try line untouched.
The Bulls had their noses in front by a point when De Wall tapped over the conversion to make it 33-32.
The home side tried their best to keep the ball with the forwards and were eventually rewarded with a penalty to open the gap once again.
Blue Bulls 36 (10): Tries - Okkie Kruger, Stefan Watermeyer, Zane Kirchner.
Conversions - Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3) Penalties Potgieter (4) Drop goals – Jaco van der Westhuyzen (1).
Western Province 32 (10): Tries- Juan De Jongh, Gio Aplon
Conversions - Willem de Waal (2) Penalties – De Waal (6).
Cards: Dewald Potgieter (yellow 26th minute), Jean de Villiers (yellow 41stminute)