Jayden Hayward scored a 78th-minute try as the Force beat the Reds 32-29 in Brisbane to claim their fourth consecutive Super Rugby win this season.
The lead changed hands nine times in a gripping clash that saw the visitors score three tries to two. The pattern continued right to the end as Quade Cooper missed a drop goal after the hooter that would have levelled matters.
The Force showed their intent to keep ball in hand from the start and were rewarded for their enterprise with a 12-0 lead at the end of the first quarter as Sias Ebersohn knocked over four penalties.
The Reds were allowed to get back into the game by a yellow card to Force flank Angus Cottrell for a shoulder charge. The home side immediately made the extra man count as Ben Tapuai was given acres of space in midfield to cruise home for an easy try.
The Reds then doubled their score as James Slipper stormed over after a patient build-up. Cooper's conversion gave the Reds the lead for the first time at 14-12 with all the hosts' points coming during Cottrell's spell in the sin-bin.
A try from Force No 8 Ben McCalman put the visitors back in front, though, following a 16-phase build-up as the men from Perth again impressed with their ability to maintain possession. Ebersohn missed the conversion, but a Cooper penalty after the half-time hooter sent the teams into the change rooms all-square.
Mike Harris took over the kicking duties from Cooper and broke the deadlock 15 minutes into the second half. But the Force hit back on the hour mark as Luke Morahan crossed out wide after a textbook build-up. A bad miss earlier from Ebersohn meant that Hayward attempted the conversion, but he too was wide of the mark.
The see-saw battle continued with a Harris penalty to restore the Reds' lead at 23-22 only to see Ebersohn hit a long-range drop goal to make it 25-23 to the visitors.
Harris landed this third three-pointer, giving the Reds a one-point head start going into the final 10 minutes and they looked to have done enough when Harris again split the uprights to make it 29-25.
But the Force finished strongly, with a 16-phase build-up ending with Hayward finding a gap before beating the last two defenders to score a great ty. The fullback kicked the conversion to leave the Reds with one minute to save the game, but Cooper's last-gasp drop was well wide.
Reds – Tries: Ben Tapuai, James Slipper. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalties: Cooper, Mike Harris (4).
Force – Tries: Ben McCalman, Luke Morahan, Jayden Hayward. Conversion: Sias Ebersohn. Penalties: Ebersohn (4). Drop goal: Ebersohn.
Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 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 Albert Anae, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Jonah Placid.
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images