The Crusaders' big names stood up en masse to humble the Chiefs 43-15 in an imperious Super Rugby performance in Christchurch.
The clash of the New Zealand heavyweights turned into a lop-sided affair on Friday as a home side featuring 12 All Blacks in their starting XV took command from the outset and overwhelmed the defending champions by five tries to twoiphone cases for 5
A first loss since mid-April means the Chiefs' could squander their competition lead with one round of matches remaining. The second-placed Bulls will take top spot if they don't lose to the Sharks in an all-South African affair in Pretoria on Saturdayblackberry phone covers.
The Crusaders guaranteed they will contest the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season and kept alive their slim chances of winning the New Zealand conferencewigs shop.
To do so, they will need to beat the Highlanders and secure a bonus point in the final round next week while hoping the Chiefs lose by more than seven points to the Blues.
A high mistake rate and poor discipline cost the Chiefs dearly against the seven-time champions, who notched up four tries in a result-killing period either side of halftime.
Leading the way was captain Kieran Read, who scored the first of his two tries on the stroke of halftime to put his team 19-8 ahead.
That scoreline didn't reflect the Crusaders' dominance of possession and territory but they quickly powered clear after the break through tries to fullback Israel Dagg, No.8 Read and centre Ryan Crotty after the break.
Dagg returned to his attacking best with countless forays into the line while fellow-All Black Dan Carter maintained his commanding form at first five-eighth.
Carter landed seven from nine shots at goal in an 18-point haul which saw him become the first player to surpass 1500 points in Super Rugby.
The Chiefs' tries were scored by wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma in the first half and centre Charlie Ngatai in the second but the Crusaders had the final say when replacement back Tyler Bleyendaal snatched a loose pass and steamed 70m to round out the scoring.
The visitors' hopes were rocked before kickoff when All Blacks blindside flanker Liam Messam was ruled out with a back strain.
He was replaced by 34-year-old Ross Filipo, who hadn't played since injuring his knee four months ago.