The Bulls were stretched to their limits, but desperate defence in the closing stages of Saturday night's Rainbow Cup clash at Cape Town Stadium saw them secure a 20-16 win over the Stormers.
Tense and physical throughout, the contest did not provide much in the way of thrilling running rugby, but it was so closely contested that it didn't matter.
There were just three tries all game - two for the Bulls and one for the Stormers - but with Springbok places up for grabs for the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour, this was a mammoth battle.
Steven Kitshoff, Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers) and Duane Vermeulen (Bulls) were immense for their sides, and that is good news for the national cause with the Lions in mind.
But on this day, where 'north' vs 'south' meant something vastly different, it was Jake White's Bulls who won the arm-wrestle.
The Stormers threw absolutely everything at their rivals, particularly in the closing stages, but they lacked execution in their lineout and a cutting edge on attack when it mattered most and that it was ultimately cost them.
The result means that the Bulls have now won two from two in the Rainbow Cup while the Stormers have lost both of their fixtures, both at home.
The Stormers may have started the contest as undeniable underdogs, but they showed intensity and continuity in their phase play to look the brighter side in the opening exchanges.
Abner van Reenen, given a massive opportunity at No 10 in the absence of flyhalf Kade Wolhuter, made a wobbly start for the hosts as he kicked out twice on the full and then also missed a routine penalty at goal, all in the opening 12 minutes.
As the evening progressed, his struggles would continue.
Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn, though, also missed a penalty you would have expected him to make as the sides finished the opening 15 minutes locked at 0-0.
The Stormers, bossing the scrums but losing their own lineout throws, then lost control of the ball while attacking in Bulls territory and the counter attack was devastating.
Cornal Hendricks released wing Madosh Tambwe, who bolted down the right flank and then cut inside to score and break the deadlock. Steyn converted, and the Bulls had a 7-0 lead.
Tambwe then dropped a sitter of a catch from a Steyn cross-kick that almost certainly would have resulted in another try before the Stormers bounced back.
Having set up an attacking lineout after referee Stuart Berry had awarded them one of numerous penalties, the Capetonians then set up a rolling maul. Evan Roos was not held in the tackle, and he squirmed over before Van Reenen added the extras to make it 7-7.
A Van Reenen penalty made it 10-7 to the Stormers, and that looked set to be the half-time score despite a yellow card to captain Steven Kitshoff, but Tambwe and the Bulls were not quite done.
With the penalty advantage in their favour, the Bulls were attacking after the hooter and Steyn, again, delivered an inch-perfect cross-kick.
Tambwe was well positioned on the right flank and, this time, he made no mistake in gathering and then rounding off to score under the posts.
It left the Bulls with a 14-10 lead at the break and, despite the Stormers having displayed energy and intensity, it was not undeserved for the visitors.
The start to the second half saw both sides looking for territorial dominance, and as things progressed, Steyn's boot was becoming increasingly influential.
Van Reenen, meanwhile, kicked away a golden opportunity for the hosts when they were just five metres out on attack - the look on Stormers coach John Dobson's face said it all - and soon after that Steyn nailed a 44 metre penalty to make it 17-10 to the Bulls after 55 minutes.
Another period of encouraging Stormers attack followed, but again there was simply nothing that could penetrate a Bulls defence that was growing in confidence with every hit.
Eventually, the hosts reduced the gap to 17-13 through a second Van Reenen penalty, but Chris Smith restored the Bulls' seven-point lead with a penalty immediately after that having replaced Morne Steyn.
Van Reenen knocked over another penalty on 67 minutes, making it 20-16, setting up a tense finish.
Despite wave after wave of Stormers attack, the Bulls would not be moved and, in the end, they got the job done.
Stormers 16 (10)
Tries: Evan Roos
Conversions: Abner van Reenen
Penalties: Van Reenen (2)
Bulls 20 (14)
Tries: Madosh Tambwe (2)
Conversion: Morne Steyn (2)
Penalties: Steyn, Chris Smith
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Willie Engelbrecht, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Cornel Smit, 23 Edwill van der Merwe
15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 James Verity-Amm