NSW Waratahs captain Bernard Foley has spearheaded a remarkable comeback as his side overturned a 17-point halftime deficit and beat the Highlanders 30-23 in their Super Rugby quarter-final.
The Tahs, who finished Saturday night's game at Allianz Stadium with 14 men, led 6-3 early on but conceded 20 unanswered points to trail 23-6 at the break.
But they piled on three tries and 21 points after Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo was sent to the bin and scored all 24 points after the break.
Their backline big guns fired, with five-eighth Foley scoring two tries and fullback Israel Folau one, and centre Kurtley Beale setting up two and Folau the other.
A penalty to Foley, who scored a personal-best Super Rugby 25 points, expanded the home team's lead to seven with 10 minutes to go.
The Tahs then had to play the last six minutes with 14 men after prop Paddy Ryan was sin-binned when he was caught offside after Highlanders forward Shannon Frizell grounded the ball just short of the line.
They hung on with some desperate defence to clinch a semi-final against either the Lions or Jaguares.
For the second time in Sydney this season, the Waratahs ruthlessly exploited the Highlanders when the New Zealand team were down on numbers.
Naholo was binned after two high tackles in a few seconds on Tahs prop Sekope Kepu as he tried to stop a barnstorming run from the Wallabies front-rower.
It was a different story in the first half when everything seemed to be going wrong for the Tahs after a promising start.
Discipline was an issue in the first half as they gave away seven penalties, four more than the Highlanders and on three occasions were pinged for not releasing.
Poor defensive reads and line speed and the failure to sustain pressure when in possession hurt NSW.
Naholo went over for the first try after centre Curtis Rona rushed out of the line.
Centre Rob Thompson sliced through a hole for the visitors second try.
Even when they had a lineout close to the Highlanders' line late in the half, NSW butchered the chance with a crooked throw.
But with Foley leading from the front and Beale at his brilliant best, setting up tried for his skipper and Folau, NSW made their numerical superiority count then held on when they were outnumbered.
Waratahs No.8 Michael Wells was forced off the ground in the 32nd minute after he got his head in the wrong position while trying to execute a tackle.