A dramatic draw, their second in three weeks, is not how the Crusaders envisioned the final leg of their South African sojourn panning out.
In the end, having scored three tries and 19 unanswered points to fightback to a position of control after a sloppy start, victory slipped from the Crusaders' grasp.
In the wash up from this tense match in Cape Town there will be plenty of talking points – not least the controversial decision from South African TMO Marius Jonker to scrub out a brilliant 75th minute Sevu Reece try.
Well contained prior, Reece looked to have further enhanced his All Blacks' credentials with a 45 metre chip and chase, only for Jonker to intervene and suggest there was a "clear and obvious" forward pass, despite the ball going backwards out of the hands.
The Crusaders, ahead by three points at that late stage, then survived Stormers fullback Damian Willemse bombing a try as he lost the ball over the line while attempting to re-gather a grubber in the 79th minute.
But replacement first-five Jean-Luc du Plessis made no mistake in drawing level, after deliberation about whether to kick to the corner, following a penalty against replacement Crusaders prop Oliver Jager for a high shot on a slipping attacker.
Privately the Crusaders may grumble with the officiating but they will also know this was far from their best performance – and a world away from where they were last week in Pretoria.
Again discipline was an issue. They lacked organisation and were disjointed and panicked on attack.
In their quest to push the tempo the Crusaders were guilty at times of being overly ambitious under their sticks. More often than not those tactics come off. This was not one of those days.
Presented with several opportunities to release pressure, they instead opted for the risky play. In this regard, Richie Mo'unga did not always pick the right options, though he was not alone.
In Mo'unga's defence he did lay on Braydon Ennor's second half strike with a superb dummy to send Codie Taylor through.
The Crusaders' inability to exit well after halfback Bryn Hall was replaced in the second half, coupled with frequent errors and scrum troubles in the absence of their All Blacks props, forced them to defend in their 22 for long periods.
They showed character to stoically keep coming off the line but the Stormers rolling maul caused problems and the home side never went away.
Siya Kolisi's opening strike, the Stormers' only try, epitomised the poor start from the Crusaders as they slipped 10-0 behind. The Springboks skipper easily sliced through outside David Havili and stepped Mo'unga, defending at fullback, to signal intent.
Ill-discipline and errors – two from Havili under high ball pressure – allowed the Stormers to continue early momentum.
The Crusaders weren't helped by Kieran Read's late withdrawal which pushed Jordan Taufua into start at No 8 but, otherwise, there were no excuses.
George Bower, replacing injured All Blacks loose head Joe Moody, endured scrum troubles and, initially at least, the Crusaders struggled to stop powerful carries from Boks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth.
Gradually the Crusaders began to settle. Maybe last week's dismantling of the Bulls allowed complacency to creep in. Once they put phases together, confidence and shape briefly restored.
Returning captain Sam Whitelock turned down three shots at goal in the first half. Two brought rewards in the form of tries to Matt Todd and Havili, the latter from a deflected Mo'unga kick.
But one nudge to the corner and a resulting lineout maul just before half time was thwarted, and the Crusaders may rue that decision not to take the points.
However unlikely after their limp loss to the Jaguares in Wellington, with four matches remaining in the regular season this result leaves the door ajar for the Hurricanes to challenge the Crusaders for top spot.
It should also serve a timely reminder to the Crusaders that every team, every week, is keen to hunt them down.
Two draws against South African teams – the other to the Sharks in Christchurch – in three weeks hints at vulnerabilities.
Stormers: Siya Kolisi try, Josh Stander con, pen 2, Jean-Luc du Plessis pen
Crusaders: Matt Todd, David Havili, Braydon Ennor tries, Richie Mo'unga con 2