The Reds were able to hold off a late Highlanders assault to record a 19-13 victory that keeps their Super Rugby title defence alive.
The Highlanders finished the match on the Reds line trying to force their way over with a powerful pick 'n go tactic that almost stole the men from Otago a dramatic late finish.
The match wasn't full of excitement as the Highlanders bullied the breakdown and the reds struggled to release their backline with the quick ball they desire.
The Highlanders did a great job at the breakdown and in the scrums, but didn't have the discipline they needed in general play, giving away too many kickable penalties.
The defending champions tackled their hearts out from start to finish and were able to keep the Highlanders out for long enough to pick up a vital win.
The Highlanders were first on the scoreboard after James Sipper dropped his bind at scrum time and Mike Delany landed an early penalty. Before long the scores were even as Mike Harris booted over a penalty.
Harris added three more points from the kicking-tee, while Delany's second effort drifted just wide in their kicking duel.
A fairly uneventful first half ended when Harris went for a drop-goal that was well wide. Reds lead 6-3 at the break.
The Reds continued to eek out a lead in the second half with another well struck penalty from Harris.
After some sustained pressure from inside the Highlanders' 22m the reds were eventually rewarded with a try. The came out to the backline quickly and Cooper made some ground before passing out to Wallace-Harrison. The lock drew the last defender and released James Sipper who was lurking out on the wing to score the try.
The Highlanders struck back from a 5m scrum after Nasi Manu did a great job picking up off the back and coming up inches short. The ball was quickly recycled and Aaron Smith put Adam Thomson in for the try.
The Reds were able to extend their lead to 19-8 thanks to another Harris penalty in the 70th minute.
The Highlanders kept their hopes alive with another try with five minutes remaining. The forwards did an excellent job to drive the team into the Reds 22m and then from close range replacement prop Chris King forced his way over the line.
The Highlanders fought their way up to the Reds tryline and came within inches of clinching a late win, but Jamie Mackintosh took the ball at first receiver and was isolated and gave away a penalty.
Man of the match: For the Highlanders there was some great work done up front by Adam Thomson, while Ben Smith looked dangerous with every touch of the ball. The Reds were held together by Will Genia, who is the glue in that team and Quade Cooper had a few sublime touches, but also had his flaws. In the end the man who was at the heart of all the best work done by the Reds was tough No.8 Scott Higginbotham.
Pens: Harris 4
Tries: Thomson, King
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Chris F'Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Ben Tapuai, 22 Nick Frisby.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Haskell, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (captain).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Chris King, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Kenny Lynn.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)