Captain Luke Watson scored two first-half tries before his Southern Kings clung on grimly for a 34-27 win over fellow Super 15 strugglers the Highlanders overnight.
No. 8 Cornell du Preez and halfback Shaun Venter also went over in the second 40 in a spell of 21 unanswered points from the Kings that delivered a third win in their debut season.
Backs Shaun Treeby and Hosea Gear struck with tries late on to secure a four-try bonus point and put the Highlanders within a converted try of a draw – and set up a scrambling finish. But time ran out and the Kings celebrated with huge relief and joy at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis’ unerring right boot was ultimately the difference with his four conversions and two penalties. Opposite number Colin Slade missed crucial kicks at goal, despite him going over for one of the Highlanders’ two first-half tries alongside second-row veteran Brad Thorn.
New Zealand’s Dunedin-based Highlanders have won just one in 10 to be bottom of the Super Rugby standings, while the Kings move up to 13th after surprise wins over the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels and Highlanders and a rousing draw at the table-topping ACT Brumbies.