Frank Halai scored a hat-trick as the Blues blitzed the Melbourne Rebels with five first-half tries, but a poor second half meant they were forced to hang on for a 36-32 Super Rugby victory at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
James O'Connor, one of the favourites to take the playmaker role for Australia against the British and Irish Lions next month, was forced off the field midway through the first half with what appeared to be a chest injury.
The 22-year-old Rebels flyhalf was only the most obvious victim of the power and pace of the Blues backline in the first half, with Halai and centres Francis Saili and Rene Ranger in intimidating form.
Saili grabbed a brace before halftime but the Blues were held scoreless in the second half until nine minutes from time as the Rebels barged their way back into the match with 15 unanswered points.
"That was ugly," said Blues skipper Ali Williams, whose team took five points from the encounter to stay very much in the playoff race.
"First 20 minutes we played like we should play. Then individuals, probably led by me, played (rubbish). As a team, probably need to take a good look at ourselves."
The Rebels were already without Kurtley Beal after the Wallabies back was stood down for disciplinary reasons in midweek and will be hoping the injury to O'Connor is not serious for provincial and national reasons.
Rebels No 8 Scott Higginbotham did his chances of facing the Lions no harm at all with another inspirational performance as captain, running in a brilliant solo try in the first half.
It was a try from Lachie Mitchell along with a second of the match for his fellow centre Mitch Inman and a penalty from fullback Jason Woodward, however, that pulled the Rebels to within four points of the Blues with 14 minutes to go.
Ranger showed he has brains as well as brawn when he went over for a converted try with a clever move from the side of ruck after 71 minutes to make the score 36-25, however.
There was still time for Woodward to crash over to give the Rebels a second bonus point but the chance of a third win of the season was gone.
"We're getting closer and closer every week," said Higginbotham. "I thought we were going to get there but unfortunately it wasn't to be."
Blues – Tries: Frank Halai (3), Francis Saili (2), Rene Ranger. Conversions: Chris Noakes (2), Baden Kerr.
Rebels – Tries: Mitch Inman (2), Scott Higginbotham, Lachlan Mitchell,Jason Woodward. Conversions: Woodward (2). Penalty: Woodward.