The Emirates Lions made the most of their point-scoring chances in the first half as scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba slotted three penalty goals and scored a converted try to add to another by wing Edwill van der Merwe, while they limited the hosts to two tries and penalty goal for a 23-13 lead.
The second half was much tighter as both teams ran hard at one another and this saw the Vodacom Bulls add two tries to their tally, while they limited the Johannesburg side to only two more penalty goals by Nohamba - who scored 24 points in the match - but this proved to be enough to snatch the victory for the Lions.
The victory marked the Johannesburgers’ second in a row which kept them in the playoff race, while the defeat for the Vodacom Bulls piled on the pressure to retain their place in the top eight with only three pool matches remaining.
The Vodacom Bulls had the first say as flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked penalty goal, but the Emirates Lions cancelled this out with their own three-pointer compliments of Nohamba to level the scores.
The Johannesburgers added to this with their first try in the 12th minute as Van der Merwe scored out wide before Nohamba kicked his second penalty goal in 17th minute for a 13-3 lead.
Nohamba continued to make his presence felt, adding a converted try early in the second quarter to push their score to 20 points.
The Vodacom Bulls were denied an opportunity to score a try in the 26th minute, but this did not stop them as fullback Wandisile Simelane finally scored their first five-pointer two minutes later.
Nohamba stretched the Emirates Lions’ score with his third penalty goal, but the home side struck back with two minutes left in the half after being denied minutes earlier as Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi dived over the ball following a great cross kick. This reduced their deficit to 23-13 going into the break.
The Pretoria side showed their intent from the outset in the second half as they got close to the tryline in the 45th minute only to concede a turnover, but they hit back with another try by Simelane to close their gap to five points.
Vodacom Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar added their bonus point try from a strong rolling maul early in the fourth quarter and the successful conversion saw them take a 25-23 lead.
Nohamba nudged the Emirates Lions back ahead on the scoreboard with back-to-back penalty goals in quick succession, and this gave them a four-point cushion with 10 minutes left to play.
Both teams threw everything at one another in the closing exchanges, but with neither team able to add to their score, the Emirates Lions sealed a valuable 29-25 victory.
Vodacom Bulls 25 (13) - Tries: Wandisile Simelane (2), Sbu Nkosi, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalty goal: Steyn.
Emirates Lions 29 (23) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe, Sanele Nohamba. Conversions: Nohamba (2). Penalty goals: Nohamba (5).