A try to fullback Ben Lucas off the last move of the game clinched the Reds a deserved 33-20 Vodacom Super Rugby win over the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday.
The win keeps the Reds well in touch with the Brumbies in the race for Australian conference honours.
Lucas had hardly touched the ball before an excellent long pass from scrumhalf Will Genia found the fullback unmarked on the touchline as the Reds built up impressively in the quest for the fourth try.
That they were in a position to make it a bonus-point win would have been a surprise to anyone who had watched the first half and then left at the break.
The Rebels were much the better team in the first half and looked en route to what for them would have been an unprecedented third consecutive win in the competition.
The Reds looked listless and disjointed and looked to be carrying the effects of a journey home from South Africa that was disrupted by substantial delays.
James O’Connor kicked the first penalty of the match to make it 3-0 to the Rebels early on, and although the Reds struck back with a penalty through Quade Cooper, the Rebels were doing most of the pressing as the match neared the half hour mark.
And Beau Robinson had further complicated matters for the Reds when he was yellow carded – he was fortunate not to be red carded actually! – for blatantly throwing punches at Rebels flank Scott Fuglistaller.
But the Reds did well to resist the early Rebels pressure and then profited from an amazing turnaround as a Rory Sidey pass in the centre of the field was intercepted by the Reds’ Luke Moharan who ran from inside his own half to go over untouched to give the Reds a 10-3 lead that at that stage was hardly deserved.
But it was the start of a freaky final 10 minutes of the half, with the Rebels striking back almost immediately by charging down an attempted Quade Cooper clearance on his own line for Fuglistaller to score a try that leveled the scores with the James O’Connor conversion.
Cooper then immediately made up for his mistake by regaining the lead for the home team with a smartly taken drop-goal from 10 metres, but then blotted his copybook again before halftime by having yet another kick charged down and the Rebels scored again.
And it was Sidey, the man responsible for the pass that was intercepted earlier, who caught the deflection off a teammate to go over for the try.
The Rebels were full value for their 17-13 halftime lead, and they improved their position even further soon after the break as O’Connor kicked another penalty.
At seven points down, there were signs of frustration creeping into the Reds’ game, but that was when they appeared to slip gear, with the pack taking control of the scrums and the Reds halfbacks making sure that the rest of the match was played in the right areas.
Cooper missed a penalty after one of those strong scrums in the 47th minute set up an opportunity from the angle, and then missed the conversion of a Peter Shatz try scored off a lineout maul to leave the Reds trailing by two.
But the momentum of the game had definitely shifted, and the Rebels suddenly looked jittery and vulnerable as the pressure was applied.
The match was played in an intense spirit, with brawls frequently breaking out, and one of those happened after the Shatz try, with Saia Faingaa being penalised for being picked up on television throwing a rabbit punch during the melee in the in-goal area.
So the Rebels were given a chance to pick up another three pointer from halfway, but the kick was just away to the left (his right).
Eventually it was Cooper who got a chance to atone for his earlier misses and mistakes, and he managed to slide the ball in to take his team into a 21-20 lead.
Suddenly it was Cooper’s night, for a few minutes later it was the flyhalf who burrowed his way through a clutch of Rebels defenders before reaching out and dotting down on the line.
Mike Harris had by then come onto the field so his team entrusted him with the responsibility of kicking the conversion, which he did to take the Reds eight points clear with 12 minutes remaining.
With the Reds' scrum clearly putting the squeeze on a Rebels unit that lost key players during the match to injury, from then on it was only a question of whether the Reds would score the bonus point.
Reds - Tries: Luke Morahan, Jake Schatz, Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas. Conversions: Cooper, Harris. Penalties: Cooper (2). Drop goal: Cooper.
Rebels - Tries: Scott Fuglistaller, Rory Sidey. Conversions: Jason Woodward (2). Penalties: Woodward (2).