The Chiefs' Super Rugby Aotearoa season is officially on life-support after sagging to a third straight defeat.

A Will Jordan brace powered the Crusaders to an 18-13 win in Christchurch on Sunday, ensuring the red and blacks keep the heat on the 3-0 Blues at the top of the log.

As for the Chiefs, it sure feels like a life-time ago since they rolled the Crusaders 25-15 in Hamilton on a summer's night in February, one of three straight wins to start the Gatland era.

Surely they must now win their remaining five matches to have any chance of pressing on and being crowned champions.

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Even with skipper Sam Cane finally back, they were always up against it against a team which is now undefeated in 35 straight home matches.

It was a tough old game on the eye, one where more than two hands were required to count the handling errors as drizzle set in.

When all was said and done, the teams had combined for 22 handling errors.

Indeed, this was a good old fashion slugfest which required both teams to shelve any thought of playing an expansion game and rather play the territory and possession game.

So when Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden badly flicked a pass into touch inside his own half, it was promptly punished by the quick-thinking hosts.

Wing Sevu Reece scooped up the ball and fired a quick line-out to Jordan, who gassed the visitors and put the Crusaders 15-3 up after 46 minutes.

It was the type of afternoon any sort of lead was going to be difficult to chase, and so it proved after Jordan touched down late in the first half to put the hosts 10-3 up.

The 37-minute wait for the opening five-pointer was well worth the wait in the slippery conditions - another reminder Christchurch will have to wait until 2024 for their new all-purpose indoor stadium.

On the back of a lineout steal, pivot Richie Mo'unga uncorked a bomb for wing Reece, who soared high and broke down the right-hand flank, before finding Jordan on his inside shoulder to finish.

Perhaps it was the deficit which prompted Cruden to attempt the flashy flick-on. Regardless, it wasn't the answer.

Nor was the Chiefs' wonky lineout, which again faltered under pressure, letting the Crusaders off the hook on a few occasions.

Nevertheless, the Chiefs were never going to go down without a heck of a fight.

Wing Sean Wainui dived over out wide in the 64th minute, before Damian McKenzie added a penalty goal to pull the visitors to within five points with 10 minutes to play.

The Chiefs setup camp inside the Crusaders' 22 in the waning minutes, but could not muster the score required to ensure Crusaders fans trudged out of Orangetheory Stadium stewing over a Super Rugby loss for the first time since the Hurricanes walloped them 35-10 on July 16, 2016.

Before Jordan touched down shortly before the break, there was little to write home about, as both teams could only muster penalty goals.

The Crusaders dominated possession and territory in the first 10 minutes, but the organised Chiefs' defence held firm.

It was a scrum penalty against the feed which gave Mo'unga the opportunity to slot an 11th minute penalty, which he eased over from 35 metres.

The Chiefs, having turned down the sticks and had a couple of driving mauls rebuffed deep inside the Crusaders' 22, finally settled for a three-pointer when the hosts were caught offside 25 minutes into the contest.

Fullback McKenzie, who often threatened to crack the hosts with his jinking feet, pushed a further penalty attempt wide a few minutes later.

Crusaders 18 (Will Jordan 2 tries; Richie Mo'unga 2 pen, con ) Chiefs 13 (Sean Wainui try; Damian McKenzie 2 pen, con). HT: 10-3

Thanks to Stuff.co.nz for the report