Sergeal Petersen scored a try after the final hooter as the Cheetahs beat the Lions 30-24 in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.
The Cheetahs fullback delighted the crowd, dotting down to save the Free State side from squandering a 13-7 halftime lead.
Lions lock Andries Ferreira crashed over William Small-Smith to score the first try of the match after being put into a half-gap by scrumhalf Marko Jansen van Vuuren. Flyhalf Ashlon Davids converted.
The Cheetahs hit back one minute later. Flanker Gerhard Olivier bravely charged down and collected an attempted clearance by Lions full-back Jaco van der Walt to dive in under the posts for a converted try.
After 19 minutes, the Golden Lions went down to 14 men after prop Corne Fourie was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle. Cheetahs fly-half Robbie Petzer landed two penalties before half-time to make the score 13-7 to the Cheetahs.
The Golden Lions opened the second half scoring with a Hacjivah Dayimani try. Harold Vorster received a switch pass in midfield before releasing Aphiwe Dyantyi, who rounded Rosko Specman down the left touchline then offloaded to Dayimani who stepped Sergeal Petersen to score. Van der Walt hit the post and converted to give his side a one point lead in the 48th minute.
Brilliant stepping from a few players saw number eight Fabian Booysen score another Lions converted try. The home scored next though through a Petzer penalty.
Two Blitzboks stars combined for the next Cheetahs try. Cecil Afrika passed to Rosko Specman, who powered past Sylvian Mahuza to score a converted try.
Van der Walt landed a 77th minute penalty to give the Lions a one point lead but in the 81st minute, Cheetahs full-back Petersen broke through and stepped the final defender to score a dramatic match-winning converted try.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Olivier, Specman, Petersen
Cons: Petzer, Small-Smith 2
Pens: Petzer 3
For Golden Lions:
Tries: Ferreira, Dayimani, Booysen
Cons: Davids, van der Walt 2
Pens: Van der Walt
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robbie Petzer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan (c), 7 Gerhard Olivier, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Ox Nche, 17 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Jasper Wiese, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Ryno Benjamin, 22 Cecil Afrika
Golden Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Antony Volmink, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Jacques van Rooyen (c), 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corne Fourie
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Rhyno Herbst, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Bradley Thain, 21 Nicolaas Hanekom, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Jaco Kotze, Darren Colby
Television match official: Johan Greeff