The Chiefs held off a strong second-half surge by the Crusaders to advance to a Super Rugby Final for the second time.
Outscoring the seven-time champion Crusaders by two tries to one, the Chiefs recorded a 20-17 win in an enthralling encounter in Hamilton on Friday.
It was everything you expected of a play-off match - physical, even brutal, intense, with moments of sheer magic.
In the end the Chiefs, purely based on their huge defensive effort, deserved the win and will now wait for Saturday's encounter between the Stormers and Sharks in Cape Town to see who they meet in the Final next week and where.
The Chiefs held a 17-11 lead after an intense, and at times brutal, first half - which not only saw the referee speak to both teams on occasion, but eventually put a punch-up in report (white card), as the match threatened to boil over.
The first quarter saw a litany of penalties, with the teams level after Aaron Cruden and Dan Carter each slotted one.
However, the Chiefs were eventually rewarded for the immense pressure they piled on when Sona Taumalolo was awarded a try by the TMO - although it remained unclear if he illegally propelled himself over the line. The conversion made it 10-3 after 26 minutes.
A Carter penalty pulled back three points, before Liam Messam scored his team's second try - coming from a counter started by Robbie Robinson inside his own half and the scoring pass coming from Sonny Bill Williams, a try that was as clinical and as devastating as only the Chiefs can be. The Cruden conversion made it 17-6.
The Crusaders managed to pull a late try back - Ryan Crotty going over right at the break, after some quick phase ball and good hands finally exposed the Chiefs' defence. The conversion was wide, but at 11-17 the Crusaders were back in the hunt.
The second half was just a succession of penalties - Carter slotting two and Cruden just one - as the teams got involved in an arm-wrestle for the right to go through
The Penalties were mostly in defence and for silly offences - early hits in the scrum, not releasing in the tackle , slapping the ball out of the scrumhalf's hands and offside.
In the end the half produced nine penalties and two free kicks.
Despite the best efforts of the Crusaders, the Chiefs' immense efforts on defence paid dividends and they held on for the three-point (20-17) win, to advance to the Final.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Taumalolo, Messam
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 2
For the Crusaders:
Pens: Carter 4
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan, Keith Brown
TMO: Garratt Williamson