Cape Town - The Chiefs were made to work hard before defeating the Blues in their Super Rugby encounter at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday morning.
The home side won 33-29 after leading 14-10 at half-time.
"Japanese Jonah" Ataata Moeakiola try, with his first touch of the ball, lifted the Chiefs to a 21-10 lead.
In a relentless closing 35 minutes, the ageless Ma'a Nonu led a spirited Blues response with two of their three second-half tries.
But each time they closed the gap, the Chiefs were able to score again to maintain their advantage.
After a disappointing four losses to start the season, the Chiefs have now strung together a draw and three consecutive victories and lifted themselves off the bottom of the New Zealand conference.
They also extended their unbeaten run against their nearest neighbours to 15 consecutive games.
"It's huge, it's massive to get a win in the New Zealand conference," a satisfied Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick said.
"We came out here on our home ground and wanted to prove a point and fix up the first few rounds.
"Every time we scored they came back and we were hanging on there in the end."
In the tense battle, the Chiefs were clinging to a 14-10 lead early in the second half when their influential fullback Damian McKenzie limped off with a knee injury and Moeakiola came on to score what proved to be the decisive try.
The Blues were first on the board with an early Otere Black penalty before the Chiefs replied with converted tries to Brad Weber and Lachlan Boshier, and the Blues came back on the stroke of half-time with a try to Melani Nanai.
When McKenzie departed soon after the restart, on came the Tongan-born Japan wing Moeakiola to score immediately and take the pressure off the Chiefs.
Moeakiola, who earned the nickname "Japanese Jonah" with a string of outstanding performances at the World Under 20 Championship in 2016, crashed over with his first touch of the ball after Chief's standout midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown had opened up the Blues defence.
In a relentless closing 35 minutes, Nonu scored twice from close range for the Blues and Rieko Ioane also crossed the line.
But sandwiched between the Blues tries, Boshier touched down for his second try and Jesse Parete also scored to keep the Chiefs in front.
Next week the Chiefs are up against the Lions at home while the Blues travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders in another New Zealand derby.
Tries: Brad Weber, Lachlan Boshier (2), Ataata Moeakiola, Jesse Parete
Conversions: Damian McKenzie (2), Marty McKenzie (2)
Tries: Melani Nanai, Ma'a Nonu (2), Rieko Ioane
Conversions: Otere Black (2), Harry Plummer
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Angus Ta’avao
Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Ataata Moeakiola
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie