WELLINGTON - The Highlanders sneaked home 18-16 over the Hurricanes after both sides worked each other to a standstill in their Super Rugby derby in Wellington on Friday.
The Hurricanes scored the only try in the tense, high-stakes battle, with the Highlanders relying on the boot of five-eighth Hayden Parker to get them home.
Parker kicked five penalties before landing the match-winning drop goal with 16 minutes remaining.
In the countdown to the final whistle, the Hurricanes squandered two chances to snatch back the lead.
Andre Taylor, who took over the kicking duties from an injured Beauden Barrett, missed a close-range penalty, and a try to TJ Perenara was disallowed when television replays detected obstruction by a Hurricanes forward.
"It was one of those games where each team didn't want to give up much so it was pretty tight," said Highlanders captain Ben Smith, who described the outcome as an "ugly" victory.
Both sides started on 30 points, with the Hurricanes sixth on the table and the Highlanders seventh.
While the win kept the Highlanders in finals contention, the Hurricanes suffered a significant blow to their top-six hopes.