Durban - A long-range penalty by Fred Zeilinga four minutes from time helped the Sharks snatch a last-ditch 19-16 victory over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup clash at Kings Park on Saturday night.
The home flyhalf kicked 14 points in total, with the other five coming through a late try by Tonderai Chavhanga.
However, the visitors will rue what might have been after leading the game for most of the evening thanks to a brilliant Clayton Blommetjies' try and the boot of Willie du Plessis.
The defeat was their second in three games, while victory for the coastal side lifted them to second on the table behind Western Province.
The Cheetahs did most of the early running, but their best chance ended with a knock-on from Rayno Benjamin 10 metres out on the right after a floated pass by centre Joubert Engelbrecht.
At the other end, the Sharks were gradually improving, and fullback SP Marais did brilliantly to set up Chavhanga, who ran out of space on the left, while centre Paul Jordaan and loose forward Francois Kleinhans were also caught just before the line.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the first points finally arrived in the 21st minute when Du Plessis kicked over a penalty as lock Etienne Oosthuizen was penalised for not releasing the tackler.
The lead was doubled moments later by the Cheetahs flyhalf after Marco Wentzel was caught off-side, before the opening try arrived in the 26th minute courtesy of some clever play from the busy Sarel Pretorius .
The experienced scrumhalf made the most of some casual defending from the hosts after the kick-off by darting sharply out of his 22-metre area and spreading right to fullback Blommetjies, who kicked forward and re-gathered expertly ahead of Chavhanga and Zeilinga.
There was finally some scoreboard joy for the hosts on the half-hour when flyhalf Zeilinga popped over three points after prop Kevin Stevens was caught off-side.
It was 13-3 at the break and the hosts cut a further three points off the lead straight after the restart through Zeilinga - with Francois Uys guilty of infringing this time.
However, another Wentzel infringement less than two minutes later gifted the Cheetahs back their lead as Du Plessis slotted the penalty.
Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson had seen enough by then, sending on Lourens Adriaanse, Thomas du Toit, Conrad Hoffmann and Lionel Cronje even before 50 minutes were up.
The new-look front row made an instant impact by winning a scrum penalty that was kicked over by Zeilinga, narrowing the gap to seven.
It could have been even better for the home side with 14 minutes to play, but Zeilinga missed for the first time on the night when he dragged it wide kicking into the wind.
But there was still a twist four minutes later as Chavhanga sliced through the middle after taking a neat pass from Hoffmann to run in under the posts.
And with time running out, Zeilinga landed the winning 45-metre penalty, which was a result of another strong scrum.The Cheetahs nearly claimed a late win when prop Stevens appeared to have scored. However, replays showed Stevens had lost the ball before grounding.
But the Sharks may count themselves lucky as replays showed the ball was kicked out of Stevens' hand as he attempted to dot down.
The referee (Rasta Rasivhenge) and the TMO (Jason Jaftha) though failed to spot the ball being kicked out of Stevens' hand and awarded a scrum to the hosts.
In next weekend's action, the Sharks travel to Nelspruit to face the Pumas, while the Cheetahs duel with Griquas in Kimberley.
Try: Tonderai Chavhanga
Conversion: Fred Zeilinga
Penalties: Zeilinga (4)
Free State Cheetahs:
Try: Clayton Blommetjies
Conversion: Willie du Plessis
Penalties: Willie du Plessis (3)
15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. S'bura Sithole, 12. Paul Jordaan, 11. Tonderai Chavhanga, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Cameron Wright, 8. Tera Mtembu (Captain), 7. Francois Kleinhans, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Matt Stevens, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies / Johan Meyer, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Heimar Williams, 22. Lionel Cronje
Free State Cheetahs
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Neil Claassen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Dolph Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Kevin Stevens
Substitutes: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 George Marich, 18 Henco Venter, 19 Vincent Jobo, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 JP du Plessis