The Brumbies held off a determined Reds' fightback to win 23-20 in Brisbane.
Losing at home to the Force was expected to lead to a big response from the Reds, but this result is a hammer blow to their season. They now sit nine points off the Brumbies, who occupy top spot in the Australian conference.
The Brumbies began the game strongly with a try from lock Scott Fardy, who pounced on a Quade Cooper fumble 5m from his own line.
A penalty from Cooper and two from Nic White were followed by a 31st-minute try from Joe Tomane after Jesse Mogg had found him on the right wing.
The Reds hit back via a driving maul that saw flank Beau Robinson make it 20-10 at half-time.
After another White penalty, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Will Genia came close to scoring for the Reds within one minute of each other before Rod Davies coughed up the ball 5m from the line.
But the biggest blunder was yet to come as Cooper went over from a set-move only for Tomane to put in a try-saving tackle that saw the flyhalf spill possession. Luckily for Cooper, Ed Quirk scored a try off a dominant scrum.
Hope of a comeback win was further enhanced with 10 minutes remaining when Cooper landed three points from 40m, but the Brumbies held on to put the pressure on the chasing Waratahs, who face an in-form Force side in Perth on Saturday.
Reds – Tries: Beau Robinson, Ed Quirk. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalties: Cooper (2).
Brumbies – Tries: Scott Fardy, Joseph Tomane. Conversions: Nic White (2). Penalties: White (3).
Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Chris Feauai-Satutia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris/Dave McDuling, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Siliva Silva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Christian Leali'ifano.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images