The Crusaders scored a late try to beat the Rebels in Christchurch.
The Crusaders won 30-26 to keep alive their play-off hopes.
The seven-time champions lost to the Force in Australia and losing at home to the Rebels would have been a killer blow to their 2013 prospects.
Tom Taylor kicked 20 points for the Crusaders, who led 18-11 at halftime.
The Crusaders scored two tries within 12 minutes to be 12-nil up and then switched off.
The Rebels were the better side and outscored the Crusaders three tries to two, but ill-discipline was their downfall in the final minutes and this allowed Taylor to kick two penalties to seal the win.
New Zealand teams have struggled to beat Australian sides this season and this was only the fourth win.
Crusaders – Tries: Zac Guildford, Tyler Bleyendaal. Conversion: Tom Taylor. Penalties: Taylor (6).
Rebels – Tries: Scott Higginbotham, James O’Connor, Ged Robinson. Conversion: O’Connor. Penalties: O’Connor (3).