The Chiefs, despite domination possession and territory, had to wait to six minutes from time to get the match-winning score against the Blues.
In the end the 21-19 win in Hamilton on Saturday shows just how hard the Chiefs had to work in this brutal all-New Zealand derby.
The winning score was a penalty try, after the Blues were down a man and the Chiefs scrum demolishing the visitors' set piece.
However, for much of the second half it had looked like the Blues would cause a massive upset.
When the Chiefs lost playmaker Damian McKenzie after half an hour, the Blues rallied to hit the front 19-14 by half-time.
They did not surrender the lead until a costly yellow card saw their scrum falter seven minutes from the final whistle.
The result lifted the Chiefs to five wins from six games while the Blues sank to one win from six.
The Blues had seemed on track to break their unwanted record of no away victories against the neighbouring Chiefs since 2011.
They defended heroically for most of the second half to protect a five-point lead until lock Jack Goodhue was yellow-carded and an underpowered Blues scrum conceded the match-winning seven-point penalty try for the Chiefs.
"We created plenty of opportunities throughout the game but, gee, we didn't finish many," said a relieved Chiefs captain Sam Cane.
"What was pleasing was we didn't get too frustrated: the composure in the last 15 [minutes] was pretty pleasing."
Blues captain James Parson was pleased with his side's improvement in defence and discipline compared to last week's shellacking by the Sharks, although in the end it was discipline that let them down.
"Ill-discipline has cost us the game, the yellow card, and obviously you saw what happened at scrum time. The big factor was we were down a man and they took it to us and got the penalty try," Parsons said.
The Blues made a promising start, with penalties by Stephen Perofeta in the first and third minutes putting them up 6-0.
The Chiefs came into the game with a penalty to McKenzie, who followed up by doubling around Johnny Faauli to send Sean Wainui over, and 10 minutes into the game the home side were in front.
But no Chiefs player would score again against the tightened Blues defence.
McKenzie and Perofeta traded penalties to have the Chiefs ahead 14-9 when McKenzie left the field, and the Blues regained the lead with a try to Parsons converted by Perofeta, who also landed a fourth penalty.
It put the Blues five points ahead, a margin they held for 35 minutes until the Chiefs' late penalty try.
Man of the match: Stephen Perofeta pulled the strings in the backline, whole brothers Rieko and Akira Ioane were again very prominent. Anton Lienert-Brow was a massive threat with ball in hand, Sam Cane, Lachlan Boshier, Brodie Retallick and Tyler Ardron laid the platform up front for the Chiefs. Our award goes to the Chiefs' Canadian import, lock Tyler Ardron.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Wainui, Penalty try
Con: Penalty try does not require a conversion
Pens: McKenzie 3
For the Blues:
Pens: Perofeta 3
Yellow card: Josh Goodhue (Blue, 70 - repeated offences, killing the ball at the tackle)
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa'auli, 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Luke Jacobson, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Charlie Ngatai (co-captain), 23 Marty McKenzie.
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 George Moala, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Mike Tamoaieta, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Dalton Papali'i, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Orbyn Leger.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Glen Jackson
TMO: Aaron Paterson