The Crusaders missed seven penalties and conceded a last-minute intercept try as the Chiefs won 18-10 in Christchurch.
In a pulsating game that went right down to the wire, the Chiefs led 8-0 at half-time thanks to a brilliant try from former Crusader Robbie Fruean, who bounced off three defenders.
Sam Whitelock pulled the Crusaders back into contention with a try early in the second half but, with the score at 11-10, the defending champions landed the killer blow in the dying moments as replacement wing James Lowe intercepted and ran the length of the field to score.
The Crusaders will harbour a number of regrets having enjoyed the lion's share of possession and territory but between them Tyler Bleyendaal and Tom Taylor left 21 points by the wayside from the kicking tee.
Chiefs – Tries: Robbie Fruean, James Lowe. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (2).
Crusaders – Try: Sam Whitelock. Conversion: Tom Taylor. Penalty: Taylor.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Rob Thompson.
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tevita Koloamatangi, 6 Liam Messam (c) 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Nick Crosswell, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images