Hansie Graaff kicked a last-minute 55 metre penalty to hand the Cheetahs a dramatic 27-26 victory over the Stormers in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The home side showed great character to battle back from an 11-0 half-time deficit to clinch a morale-boosting win over last year's South African Super Rugby conference winners.
The visitors got on the front foot early and camped in the Cheetahs 22 until flyhalf Kurt Coleman was able to open the scoring with a penalty in front of the poles.
Coleman doubled their lead with another straight-forward penalty following a superb counter-attacking run from fullback Jaco Taute which saw him glide past several defenders with ease.
The Cheetahs responded by launching a series of attacks, but the Stormers' renowned defensive system held firm and they managed to shut the home side down consistently.
After absorbing some pressure the Stormers worked their way into the Cheetahs 22 where they launched a driving maul which saw Nizaam Carr crash over for the opening try.
Both teams battled to find enough continuity to apply consistent pressure, and after a frustrating opening period for the Cheetahs the Stormers took an 11-0 lead into half-time.
The Cheetahs started the second half with real intent and they were rewarded early on when flyhalf Riaan Smit knocked over a penalty to open their account.
Springbok flank Juan Smith was brought on soon after half-time in his first outing for almost two years, along with a host of other substitutions for the home side.
However, they were down to 14 men soon afterwards when Rayno Benjamin was shown a yellow card for not rolling away in the tackle, and the Stormers cashed in with Carr rumbling over for his second try from the resulting line-out drive.
Despite being a man down the Cheetahs took the game to the visitors, and they managed to get over the whitewash when scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius nipped over in the corner after a turnover deep in Stormers territory.
That try seemed to lift the home side and they struck again when Frans Viljoen forced his way over the line from a maul. The conversion from Elgar Watts gave the Cheetahs the lead for the first time in the game, but the Stormers had it back soon afterwards when Coleman landed another penalty to make it 19-17.
The Cape side followed that up with a fluent passage of play which took them deep into opposition territory before a deft chip from Coleman found Damian de Allende who dotted down to extend their lead to 24-17.
The Cheetahs pressed hard in the final 10 minutes, and it was the Stormers who found themselves down to 14 men in the final stages after Bryan Habana dropped his knee into the face of a Cheetahs player at a ruck.
The Cheetahs made their extra man count when the ball was floted out to Rocco Jansen who took advantage of the space out wide to cruise over for a try which reduced the gap to 26-24 with minutes left to play.
The home side never gave up and were given one last shot at victory when they were awarded a penalty five metres inside their own half on the stroke of full-time. Graaff stepped up and slotted the kick to send the home fans into ecstacy, with the Stormers left to ponder how they managed to throw the game away.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, Viljoen, Jansen
Cons: Watts 3
Pens: Smit, Graaff
Yellow card: Benjamin (48 mins, offside)
For the Stormers:
Tries: Carr 2, De Allende
Pens: Coleman 3
Yellow card: Habana (75 mins, foul play)
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Doppies Vermeulen, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Lodewyk de Jager, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Frans Viljoen, 21 Juan Smith, 22 Lappies Labuschagne, 23 Piet van Zyl, 24 Elgar Watts, 25 Barry Geel, 26 Willie le Roux, 27 Hansie Graaff.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Don Armand, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements - from: Stephan Coetzee, Pat Cilliers, Ruan Botha, Michael Rhodes, Rayn Smid, Dewaldt Duvenage, Pat Howard, Gerhard van den Heever, Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe