Damian McKenzie's long-range extra-time penalty saw the Chiefs edge the Highlanders 26-23 to claim Super Rugby Aotearoa's first golden-point triumph.
It proved a moment of atonement for McKenize, who had punted wide from a similar opportunity at the end of regulation time.
In total, McKenzie kicked 16 of the Chief's 26 points, with Etene Nanai-Seturo and Angus Ta'avao scoring the visitors' tries in Dunedin.
Chasing a third straight win, the Chiefs led for much of the encounter, yet were pegged back late on by fly-half Josh Ioane, who converted his own try before drilling a penalty through the sticks to force extra-time.
James Lentjes and Aaron Smith had previously crossed for the hosts at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
It was McKenzie who struck the decisive blow, landing a penalty from just short of the halfway line to send the Chiefs into third place on 12 points, two shy of the Blues, who occupy the second semi-final berth, with table-topping Crusaders coming up next.