The Sharks ended a five-match losing streak to beat the Chiefs 12-11 in an ill-tempered Super Rugby contest in Durban on Saturday.
Referee Angus Gardner brandished three red cards with Sharks pair Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Steyn banished after the Chiefs had lost hooker Hika Elliot for a dangerous no arms tackle at a ruck.
Gardner evened the numbers up at 14 per side when Sharks captain Du Plessis was seen by the referee's assistant committing an act of foul play and the TMO was asked to look at the incident as it had gone unseen by everyone else.
The replays on the big screen showed Du Plessis clearly kicking Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch in the head and the Sharks were reduced to 13 men 10 minutes later when Steyn - with help from Cobus Reinach and Ryan Kankowski - tackled Aaron Cruden over the horizontal and drove him head first into the ground.
The TMO suggested a yellow card as the act was not Steyn's alone but the referee and his assistant disagreed because of Cruden's head being driven into the ground and the Springboks centre was red carded.
Pat Lambie and Cruden exchanged two penalties each to tie the scores at 6-6 but it then looked as if the Chiefs would make their superior numbers count.
Flanker Sam Cane went over from a maul with five minutes of the first period remaining but Lambie closed out the half with a sweetly-struck kick in the worsening wind and rain to reduce the deficit to two.
During a tense second half Lambie landed his fourth penalty after the creaking Chiefs scrum were penalised again and the Sharks had a narrow one-point lead.
Cruden missed a difficult penalty kick from 40 metres before the All Black outside-half missed another chance to seal victory when he sent his drop goal attempt wide in the final moments.
Lambie said: "We needed the win to get our season back on track.
"But I think the conditions helped with two men down.
"It was difficult to play two men down, but the character was outstanding."