Queensland Reds have snapped a six-game Super Rugby losing streak with a stirring 18-17 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Capping off their two-week tour of South Africa in style, the Reds clawed back from 10-0 down to twice take the lead in a see-sawing second half and earn just their second win of the season on Sunday morning (AEST).
James O’Connor sparked the comeback in his first game back from a niggling calf injury, playing his best game for the franchise.
Setting up Adam Korczyk and then Samu Kerevi for tries just after the half-time break, the former Wallabies livewire appeared to have set the Reds on course for a drought-breaking result.
The Cheetahs responded with an excellent driving maul teeing up Boom Prinsloo to score and reclaim the ascendancy for the home side with 20 minutes to go.
But a drop goal to makeshift flyhalf Nick Frisby gave the Reds a slender one-point lead, which they managed to hold during a dramatic final few minutes.
Joe Pietersen had the chance to score what would have been the match-winning penalty with seconds remaining but his attempt thudded into the post.
The final whistle would have come as sweet relief for embattled coach Richard Graham, who is in a scrap to save his job following a woeful start to the year.
On this evidence, the worst of it may well be over.
The Reds had some good moments off the back of their dominance in the scrum but only got on the scoreboard for the first time through an O’Connor penalty with the last action of the first half.
They knew the Cheetahs would cause their suspect defence problems with their expansive, flowing style and it took only a few minutes for that to come true.
Only a desperate last-ditch tackle from Karmichael Hunt stopped Francois Venter from getting to the line in the opening stages as the Cheetahs began probing for a chink in the armour.
It took a while but, not long after the half-hour mark, they found one, with winger Rayno Benjamin outpacing Lachie Turner down the left to put the finishing touches on the move.
Pietersen converted to make it 10-0 but, unlike in weeks gone by, the Reds did not lie down on this occasions.