The home side looked in control of the blockbuster encounter until a last gasp try secured an epic 24-21 win for the Chiefs.
Desperate defence from the Crusaders on their goal line as the final whistle beckoned was not enough to prevent the Waikato side prevailing.
For the Chiefs, Rameka Poihipi, scored the decider, with another two tries to Shaun Stevenson. The Waikato-side also claimed its first win since 2016 over the powerhouse Canterbury team.
Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan said his players competed at the set piece and showed plenty of determination.
"We had a lot of belief in it," McMillan said.
"The Crusaders were oustanding, we just couldn't break them down, but we got there in the end."
Richie Mo'unga made his first start of 2022 for the Crusaders.
The Cantabrians were ahead 21-10 with 20 mintues to play after relentless attacking play from at the start of the second half.
Disappointed Crusaders coach Scott Robinson said his team would look closely at the performance after holding a four-point lead at half-time.
"The care was there, we just didn't quite get the execution," said Robinson, after his side's first loss of the season.
Bryn Gatland played a brilliant attacking game for the Chiefs, while for the Crusaders, David Havili, was a standout.
The Crusaders were forced to make late changes with captain Scott Barratt ruled out before the game. Citing medical grounds Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams and Mitch Dunshea were also sidelined for the Crusaders on game day.
Meanwhile across the Tasman, Melbourne Rebels coach Kevin Foote has called on his Wallabies players to step up to help turn around the team's fortunes after a disappointing start to the new Super Rugby Pacific season.
The Rebels have struggled so far in the current campaign, with Friday's 36-17 loss against the ACT Brumbies their fourth defeat in the four games since the season started last month.