Hooker Ti'i Paulo (pictured) scored for the Crusaders about three minutes after the final hooter to even the scores, although both teams had to endure a long wait before the TV match official gave the go-ahead to referee Jonathan Kaplan to award the try.
Crusaders first-five Dan Carter, who earlier in the night had brought up 1000 points in Super rugby, missed the tough conversion, his attempt shading the left upright.
It was a strangely hot and cold night for the Crusaders, who roared out to an 18-point lead before the Hurricanes got hold of the ball and refused to give it back.
Skipper Richie McCaw said afterwards: ''We started off pretty well but the Hurricanes were desperate and played all the rugby in the second half. We just hung in there.''
George Whitelock was over for a Crusaders try after only three minutes, the forwards rumbling it up and Robbie Fruean the former Hurricane featuring before good passing put Whitelock over in the tackle of former Crusader Michael Paterson.
A strong run by Paulo put the Crusaders straight back on attack and Carter slotted a penalty to make it 8-0.
The Hurricanes finally got on attack after 12 minutes and earned a penalty but strangely decided to take a scrum instead of kicking for goal. They may well have rued the decision because Ma'a Nonu was penalised for not releasing the ball in an excellent Carter tackle and the pressure was released.
A Nonu shoulder charge earned the Crusaders another penalty and Carter kicked it to reach the 1000 points milestone.
The Crusaders had another chance to add to their score when a poor kick by first-five Willie Ripia went straight to Sean Maitland and the speedster took on fullback Cory Jane on the outside but was tackled in the corner.
Zac Guildford scored against his former Hurricanes franchise when capitalising on Andy Ellis's quick lineout throw-in. Fruean straightened the attack and passed inside to Guildford and there was no stopping him.
It was a moment of controversy however, because a Hurricanes reserve touched the ball while it was out of play, meaning a full lineout should have been taken.
At 18-0 down, the Hurricanes had to strike back or they were out of the game and Nonu delivered with a fine individual try.
Carter missed a penalty before another controversial try was awarded, this time to Hurricane Jeremy Thrush following good work by Jane and Conrad Smith. However, in the build up to the try Carter and McCaw were obstructed, though Kaplan refused to listen to their appeals.
With Ripia converting both tries (then being replaced by Aaron Cruden), the Hurricanes had fought back to 18-14 at halftime.
The Crusaders had suffered another blow before the break, with halfback Andy Ellis suffering a head knock in the act of scoring a try right on the halftime whistle. Unfortunately no try was scored and he would play no further part in the match.
After the break it was all Hurricanes, though they couldn't break through the Crusaders defence.
Piri Weepu kicked four penalties to Carter's one and it was 21-26 to the Hurricanes with time running out for the Crusaders.
The injection of No8 Thomas Waldrom for George Whitelock provided a boost for the Crusaders, Waldrom's ball carrying and ability to break tackles was a massive plus.
The Crusaders forwards were beginning to get on top.
A massive scrum with the Crusaders on attack resulted in a tighthead and the red and blacks kept it tight from then on.
Several forward rumbles after the final hooter resulted in Paulo's deserved try, but the Crusaders could count themselves a little lucky to scramble a draw.
Although they began with a lot of intensity, leaving the Hurricanes looking shellshocked, they failed to press home the advantage.
Next the Crusaders play the Waratahs at AMI Stadium on Saturday night.
Crusaders - Tries: George Whitelock, Zac Guildford, Ti'i Paulo. Cons: Dan Carter. Pens: Carter 3.
Hurricanes - Tries: Ma'a Nonu, Jeremy Thrush. Cons: Willie Ripia 2. Pens: Piri Weepu 4.
HT: Crusaders 18-14
Crusaders - Carter: 4 from 7.
Hurricanes - Ripia: 2 from 2. Weepu: 4 from 5.
1. Wyatt Crockett (Ben Franks 60th min)
2. Ti'i Paulo
3. Owen Franks
4. Brad Thorn
5. Sam Whitelock (Chris Jack 53rd min)
6. Richie McCaw
7. George Whitelock (Thomas Waldrom 66th min)
8. Kieran Read
9. Andy Ellis (Kahn Fotuali'i HT)
10. Dan Carter
11. Zac Guildford
12. Ryan Crotty
13. Robbie Fruean
14. Sean Maitland
15. Colin Slade (Jared Payne 69th min)
Reserves not used:
16. Dan Perrin
21. Adam Whitelock