All Black ace Dan Carter pulled the strings as the Canterbury Crusaders mastered Super 15 leaders ACT Brumbies for a crucial 30-23 win in Canberra on Sunday.
It was the seven-time Super Rugby champions of old as the Crusaders won the tactical battle over Jake White's Brumbies for their first win in Australia's national capital since 2003.
Carter was at the heart of the Crusaders' attack as the benchmark Super Rugby team scored three tries to two in what skipper George Whitelock termed a "season-defining" win to keep his team in the running for the playoffs.
Carter kicked immaculately with three conversions and three penalties from his six goal attempts and was the difference in a precision performance by the Crusaders.
"It's never an easy place to come and play and we really needed this win to keep our chances alive and I'm really proud of the way the boys performed tonight," Carter said.
"We've been going a bit sideways (in attack) this year so we wanted to be a lot more direct and I thought we did that. We ran hard up against a tough and structured opposition defence."
It was the Crusaders' sixth win in 10 games and puts them six points behind New Zealand conference leaders Waikato Chiefs and just two behind the Auckland Blues.
The Brumbies had early fortune when Matt Toomua intercepted Carter's pass and raced 70 metres to score unopposed in the seventh minute and a conversion and penalty by Christian Lealiifano pushed the home side out to a 10-0 lead.
But the composed Crusaders got into their rhythm to draw level following a try by scrum-half Andy Ellis after sustained pressure in the 21st minute.
The Brumbies began the second half in the Crusaders' quarter but the New Zealanders comfortably held them at bay and struck through a try by winger Zac Guildford in the corner off a great Ryan Crotty pass.
Carter tightened the screw with the conversion and two more penalties to give the Crusaders a 23-10 lead before Lealiifano kicked the Brumbies' first points in almost an hour with a penalty.
The Crusaders sealed victory eight minutes from time when replacement Israel Dagg began and finished a sweeping 90-metre counter-attack for the team's third try and a 30-13 lead.
The Brumbies finished well to score a converted try by skipper Ben Mowen and a Lealiifano penalty to take away a losing bonus point from the match and lead the overall tournament by one point.
"It's disappointing in terms of not getting a result but at the end of the day to get a point out of that game when we were dead and buried with 15 minutes to go is probably something to count for us going into the playoffs," Brumbies coach White said.
"It wasn't a great performance by us, maybe nine weeks has taken its toll, but that's a quality team and Dan Carter controlled things as he can and there is a reason why they have been the benchmark team of Super Rugby."
It was a disappointing outcome for George Smith, who was playing his record 137th Super Rugby game for the Brumbies to eclipse the number played by former Wallaby skipper George Gregan.
Both teams have byes next weekend.