Marnitz Boshoff is the hero in the final minute for the victors.
A last-minute drop goal from debutant Marnitz Boshoff earned the Golden Lions a shock 21-20 triumph over the Central Cheetahs on Saturday in the opening 2014 Super 15 match.
The fly-half, playing only because first-choice Elton Jantjies is injured, also succeeded with all six penalty attempts to emerge as the star at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Few gave the Lions a chance of victory as they returned to the southern hemisphere inter-provincial championship having won a promotion play-off against the Southern Kings.
But the accurate goal-kicking of Boshoff kept them in touch against opponents, who wasted a chance to build a late five-point lead when fly-half Elgar Watts fluffed a kickable penalty.
It was a dismal start for a home side hoping to build on a sixth-place finish last year — their highest — and a narrow play-off loss to the Australian Brumbies.
Replacement Jean Cook did not help the hosts by being sin-binned on 62 minutes just after coming on, although the Lions scored only three points with a numerical superiority.
Wings Raymond Rhule and Cornal Hendricks scored tries, starting fly-half Johan Goosen converted both and he and Watts slotted a penalty each for the Cheetahs.
After falling behind to an early Boshoff penalty, the home side led 10-9 at half-time and stretched the advantage to eight points when Hendricks dotted down.
But Boshoff continually punished indiscipline and when late multi-phase momentum took the Lions forwards close to the posts, Boshoff slotted a drop kick.
While Boshoff will long recall his debut with pride, it was a game that never scaled great heights before a modest crowd watching in hot, early-evening conditions.
Boshoff and Goosen exchanged penalties before left-wing Rhule struck, diving over far out after being set up by Springboks full-back Willie le Roux.
Goosen converted before Boshoff succeeded with two more penalties to restrict the Cheetahs to a one-point advantage at the break.
Former national sevens squad star Hendricks went over unopposed off a long pass and Goosen converted from the touchline to give the Cheetahs a 17-9 lead.
Boshoff slotted two penalties before Watts succeeded with his first attempt, leaving five points between the teams 10 minutes from time.
The gap was trimmed to just two when Boshoff landed his sixth penalty four minutes from time and his drop goal stunned a home crowd who confidently expected to witness a home win.