Matt Toomua missed a penalty after the final buzzer to deny the Rebels an upset of the Reds Friday, who solidified their place at the top of the Super Rugby AU ladder.
In a seesawing match, the Wallaby veteran had a chance to be the hero but pulled his kick past the post to hand the home team a 23-21 victory in a physical game played in energy-sapping Brisbane heat.
Winger Alex Mafi scored two tries for the Reds, who were down 12-6 at half-time and had substitute Feao Fotuaika sent off with 20 minutes left.
Despite this, they battled hard to keep intact their unbeaten start to the season after a ruthless 41-7 bonus-point thumping of the Waratahs in their opener last week.
"We were a little bit sloppy tonight, the ball didn't stick to hand. But we were down to 14 men and stuck tight and it came down to the wire," said Reds captain James O'Conner.
"I feel for Matty because he was kicking really well tonight," he added.
Rebels skipper Toomua booted six penalties before his last-gasp miss and said it would haunt him.
"It was tricky conditions but we gave ourselves a shot and a little bit to the right we win the game, so it's disappointing," he said.
"Ultimately I think I'll be up for a little bit tonight staring at the wall, about that last kick."
The Rebels, who enjoyed a round one bye, got on the scoreboard first and controlled the speed of the game, pinning the Reds in their half and forcing defensive mistakes.
But the home team began upping the tempo and Rebels fullback Tom Pincus saved an almost certain try when he intercepted an O'Connor pass with players on the overlap.
Two penalties each from Toomua and O'Connor sent the Rebels into half-time with a 12-6 lead.
Toomua added another after the restart before Mafi dotted down from a rolling maul.
A massive kick from Reece Hodge restored a five-point buffer for the Rebels and when Fotuaika was sent off for a dangerous tackle it appeared all but over.
But the Reds kept coming with O'Connor kicking his third penalty before former Melbourne Storm NRL winger Suliasi Vunivalu came off the bench and had a try disallowed with virtually his first touch.
Mafi also had a touchdown denied for a knock on but made amends by storming over from a lineout with minutes left.
O'Connor converted to give them the lead before a high-tackle by Hunter Paisami handed Toomua the chance to win with the last kick of the game.
Tries: Alex Mafi (2)
Conversions: James O'Connor (2)
Penalties: O'Connor (3)
Penalties: Matt To'omua (6), Reece Hodge
15 Jock Campbell, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O'Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Seru Uru, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Dane Zander
Substitutes: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Ryan Smith, 20 Sam Wallis, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu
15 Tom Pincus, 14 Lachlan Anderson, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To'omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Brad Wilkin, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cabous Eloff
Substitutes: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18 Rhys van Nek, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Josh Kemeny, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Glen Vaihu, 23 Frank Lomani