The victory for former Scotland and Edinburgh forwards coach Todd Blackadder's Crusaders moved them to the top of the New Zealand conference on 57 points before they meet the Hurricanes in Wellington this week in the last round of matches. The Blues, coached by ex-Scotland back row coach Pat Lam, have 56 points and finish the regular season at home to the Otago Highlanders on Friday.
"It was an outstanding game, probably not the most pretty to watch but both teams really wanted that game," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry will be concerned by the injury toll, though, with Crusaders inside centre Sonny Bill Williams limping off after 24 minutes with a hip injury and Blues winger Rene Ranger, who had scored a brilliant individual try, leaving with a hamstring injury two minutes later.
The Crusaders had to fight back from an 8-0 deficit following an early Luke McAlister penalty and Ranger's try. Stand-off Dan Carter got the Crusaders on the board with a penalty before openside flanker Matt Todd barged over.
Carter added his second penalty to give the Crusaders a 13-8 lead before McAlister added his second penalty to ensure the Blues remained in the hunt at 13-11 down at half-time.
The Blues made a schoolboy error straight after the second-half kick-off when no one protected the ball at the back of the breakdown, allowing Read to swoop on it and feed a flying Guildford who dived over in the corner. The Auckland side struck back when prop Charlie Faumuina crashed over shortly after to make it 18-16. Guildford then sealed the win when he raced on to a brilliant cross kick from Carter.
In Sydney, centre Tom Carter scored three tries, contributing to a vital bonus point, as the New South Wales Waratahs beat the Otago Highlanders 33-7 to revive their play-off hopes.