If ever there was a moment a team became firm favourites to break Australia's Super Rugby Transtasman duck, it arrived midway through the first half of the Reds' match against the Chiefs in Townsville.
It all started to go wrong for the Chiefs after 15 minutes when Chase Tiatia's failed attempt at an intercept ended up adjudged a deliberate knock-on. That resulted in a penalty try for the Reds and a yellow card for Tiatia, before another try quickly followed for the hosts.
Bad became worse when Damian McKenzie was sent off for a high shot on halfback Tate McDermott.
And worse became even worse with the Chiefs down to 13 when right wing Suliasi Vunivalu scored within two minutes as the Reds took a 19-3 lead.
Tiatia could scarcely have anticipated the carnage his 10-minute departure would trigger but his return did little to stem the Reds onslaught, as the Queenslanders, who had won just one of their last 19 games against Kiwi opposition, had a scarcely-believable 33-3 halftime lead.
Nearly as unbelievable was the Chiefs' comeback.
It all started to go right for the Chiefs when they gained some respite when restored to 15 men early in the second half, with the-little used new rule allowing a red-carded player to be replaced after 20 minutes coming into effect when Shaun Stevenson was inserted into the game as McKenzie's replacement.
A try to Pita Gus Sowakula quickly followed, but the flimsy Chiefs defence still had holes even when back to their full allotment, with Filipo Daugunu responding as the Reds racked up 40 points.
Leading 40-8 with 16 minutes to go, you could have forgiven the Chiefs had they started mentally preparing for the flight home.
Instead, they scored four tries to turn a thrashing into a thriller.
Tupou Vaa'i, Reuben O'Neill and Bailyn Sullivan all crossed in rapid succession, and when reserve halfback Xavier Roe raced away to score in the corner, the Chiefs were suddenly within six, with 90 seconds remaining.
Surely, they couldn't?
Having made the linebreak to set up Roe's try, Stevenson again made a half-break as the Chiefs attempted one more surge in their own half, but his ill-advised offload to Anton Lienert-Brown was knocked on, and the Reds' resulting scrum saw the ball booted into touch to clinch a win that was far more nerve-wracking that it had any right to be.
While the Chiefs' failure to pick up a bonus point in their slim victory over the Western Force had probably already consigned them to missing the final, they now take on the competition's worst two squads – the Rebels and Waratahs – having to hold out hope for a miraculous Kiwi collapse to give them any shot of extending their season into a second finals appearance.
The Reds, meanwhile, will – after an assumedly brutal review of their final 15 minutes - take pride and confidence into their last two clashes against the Blues and Hurricanes, potentially being able to play spoiler against the competition's front-runners in the race for the final.
Reds 40 (Isaac Henry 2, penalty try, Suliasi Vunivalu, Feao Fotuaika, Filipo Daugunu tries; James O'Connor 4 cons)
Chiefs 34 (Pita Gus Sowakula, Tupou Vaa'i, Reuben O'Neill, Bailyn Sullivan, Xavier Roe tries; Kaleb Trask 3 cons, Damian McKenzie pen)