A Super Rugby loss came as a significant shock to the Crusaders, but it was a familiar feeling for Waratahs as they fell short again.
The Crusaders suffered a surprise first defeat of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season as the Highlanders cruised to a 33-12 victory.
The defending champions did the double over the Highlanders in last season's competition, but the form book was turned on its head on Friday.
It was only a second win in five matches for the Highlanders, who defeated the league leaders through 18 points from the boot of Mitch Hunt.
Billy Harmon, Michael Collins, Connor Garden-Bachop crossed for the Highlanders, who are a point behind the second-placed Blues having played a game more.
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Meanwhile, in Super Rugby AU, the Waratahs suffered their sixth straight defeat but came agonisingly close to a draw with the league-leading Brumbies in their first game since Rob Penney's sacking.
Interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker saw plenty of fight from their winless side, who staged an admirable second-half fightback having trailed 24-10 at the break.
Will Harrison converted his own try to trim the gap to seven points with under a quarter of an hour to play.
The Brumbies saw Rory Scott sin-binned with six minutes left and, after Tom Cusack was sent off with the clock red, James Ramm went over following a scrum metres out from the line, offering Harrison the chance to clinch a share of the spoils.
But Harrison could not split the uprights with his conversion attempt as the Waratahs suffered a 24-22 loss and more misery in a dismal campaign.