A second-half double from Samu Kerevi and James Tuttle's late try spared the returning Quade Cooper's blushes as Reds beat Sharks 28-26 after Chiefs ended their Super Rugby losing streak at Highlanders.
Cooper made a nightmare start to his Reds comeback, with Jean-Luc du Preez going over for a try just two minutes in after the Australia fly-half knocked on at Suncorp Stadium on Friday.
The former Toulon playmaker was also wayward from the tee, but Reds were not to be denied a victory in their first Super Rugby game since the full-time appointment of coach Nick Stiles - who gave starts to experienced new recruits George Smith and Stephen Moore.
Scott Higginbotham marked his second spell with the Queensland club with a first-half try after spotting a gap at the ruck, but Sharks led 16-13 at the break thanks to a Ruan Botha penalty and eight points from the boot of Pat Lambie after Du Preez' score.
Powerful Wallabies centre Kerevi crossed twice either side of a Lubabalo Mtembu five-pointer for Chiefs and Cooper showed what he is capable of by linking up with Duncan Paia'aua superbly to enable Tuttle to score the decisive try nine minutes from time.
Lambie was unable to slot over a penalty to win it late on with Karmichael Hunt in the sin-bin as Reds, who also had Kane Douglas yellow-carded in the second half, held on.
James Lowe scored two tries as Chiefs ended their six-match losing streak against Highlanders with a 24-15 win in Dunedin and the 2015 champions also lost Ben Smith with a head injury.
Lowe showed great tenacity to go under the posts and added another try 18 minutes in, intercepting a Waisake Naholo offload to surge away and go over as Chiefs led 14-9 at the break.
Highlanders lost New Zealand full-back Smith when he banged his head on the floor after competing with Damian McKenzie for a high ball following a Hikawera Elliot score, with five Lima Sopoaga penalties all the hosts could muster.