PERTH - The Western Force can dare to dream of landing a maiden finals berth in Super Rugby after a brace of tries from skipper Matt Hodgson lifted them to a 18-15 victory over the Chiefs in Saturday night's clash in Perth.
Hodgson scored the only two tries of the match to secure the Force's third straight win, the result lifting the Perth-based franchise into the top six.
The Force now have the chance to stretch their winning run to a franchise-record four games when they take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on April 5.
In a match filled with bruising tackles, the Force's defence was unrelenting, keeping the Chiefs' prolific backline at bay for the entire 80 minutes.
The win was soured by a suspected shoulder injury to Wallabies forward Hugh McMeniman, who was playing his first game since hurting his neck three weeks ago.
Prop Kieran Longbottom was carried off in the 69th minute after copping a knee to the head while making a try-saving tackle.
The Force endured a few nervous moments after the final siren as the Chiefs advanced down the wing.
But a knock-on ended the hopes of the defending champions, with the 16,380-strong crowd cheering for joy as the Force players celebrated another deserved victory.
The Chiefs struggled to create clear-cut attacking forays throughout the match, but three penalties from flyhalf Aaron Cruden gave them a 9-8 lead at half-time.
The Force created a number of good chances early in the match, with a powerful rolling maul sending Hodgson over in the 13th minute.
Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn nailed a 47m penalty to give his side an 8-3 lead after 26 minutes.
The Chiefs should have been on the back foot when prop Jamie Mackintosh was shown a yellow card for repeat infringements in the 36th minute.
Instead, two penalties either side of half-time gave the Chiefs a 12-8 advantage.
The Force grabbed back the lead when Hodgson barged over for his second try in the 46th minute, before Ebersohn's 58th minute penalty extended the lead to six points.