Christian Lealiifano slotted a penalty after the full-time hooter to help the Brumbies steal a 23-20 win against the Bulls in Canberra on Saturday.
The Bulls fought back from being 3-14 down at half-time and then 13-20 behind with just minutes remaining - only to be denied a draw by one of many questionable calls in the match.
While the Bulls will bemoan their misfortune, the result means the Brumbies cemented their place at the top of the standings.
The teams were involved in a kick-a-thon in the first half, when the territorial game was at a premium. Defence, with some monstrous hits, also a feature of proceedings throughout the match.
Having been at the wrong end of a few questionable calls in the previous weeks, the Bulls would have felt that they were still not getting the rub of the green. However, the Brumbies again showed they are past masters of playing the referee - the qualities you would expect of any team with championship ambitions.
The Brumbies were very heavily penalised in the first quarter of the match, as they continually pushed the envelope.
Their line-out was also under pressure, but in the scrums they gave the Bulls a working over. Scott Sio, a late inclusion ahead of Wallaby veteran Ben Alexander, was the main protagonist. And it culminated in Morné Mellet spending 10 minutes in the sin bin for repeated infringements at a crucial stage in the second half.
They continued to push the envelope after the break, and the penalties continued to mount against the Brumbies, which allowed the Bulls to start getting good territory.
The Bulls had the first real scoring chance, a penalty from about 45 metres out, but Morné Steyn hooked the ball past the left upright. Nic White also pushed one wide from near halfway, as the teams struggled to break the deadlock.
Christian Lealiifano eventually opened the scoring in the 18th minute, but minutes later Steyn levelled matter when the Brumbies were yet again penalised at the breakdown.
White was just short with another penalty, before Lealiifano made it 6-3 just after the half-hour mark and 9-3 with three minutes to go to the break.
Robbie Coleman scored a crucial try right on the half-time break, but the Bulls were loudly protesting what they believed was obstruction in the build-up and then crawling to the line by the Brumbies fullback. They were dismissed on both counts by the referee. Lealiifano missed the conversion attempt, leaving his team with a 11-point (14-3) lead at the break.
George Smith conceded three penalties in quick succession early in the first half, allowing the Bulls to build momentum. Lionel Mapoe went over the line five minutes into the half, but the TMO ruled that the wing had lost the ball forward.
However, Jurgen Visser scored soon afterwards, his first Super Rugby try - as the Bulls started to load the breakdown with numbers and got much better ball from their phase-play. Steyn's conversion made it 10-14 as the Bulls worked their way back into the game.
Steyn had made it a one-point game (13-14) - with a penalty from 50 metres out - in the 54th minute, as the penalty count continued to mount against the Brumbies at the breakdown.
With 10 minutes to go Lealiifano stretched his team's lead to four points (17-13), after the Bulls were penalised at the breakdown. A scrum penalty against the Bulls allowed Lealiifano to make it a seven-point game (20-13) with five minutes left on the clock.
The Bulls continued to fight hard, despite the odds and some more questionable calls, and with just a couple of minutes left Frik Kirsten won a crucial steal at the breakdown. From there quick hands put JJ Engelbrecht into space and over near the left touchline. Morné Steyn, showing his big match temperament to slot the conversion and level matters up at 20-all.
However, there was one more big call left from the referee, who penalised the Bulls at the breakdown from the restart - prompting a barrage of protests from the visitors.
Lealiifano slotted the kick from 40 metres out to steal a win even they would admit they did not deserve.
Man of the match: Jan Serfontein kept the Brumbies' defence honest in his first Super Rugby start and was the Bulls' most productive runner. Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger and later Frik Kirsten were strong on defence. Tevita Kuridrani in the backs and Peter Kimlin, among the forwards, were the Brumbies' main ball carriers. George Smith made a real menace of himself at the breakdown, although he conceded a number penalties as he pushed the envelope a bit too often. Our award goes to Brumbies fullback Robbie Coleman - a rock at the back and he also scored a crucial try.
For the Brumbies:
Pens: Lealiifano 5
For the Bulls:
Tries: Visser, Engelbrecht
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 2
Yellow card: Morné Mellet (Bulls, 64 - repeated scrum infringements)