AAP

The Brumbies and Reds have set the stage for a potentially decisive Australian conference derby with a pair of thrilling Super Rugby triumphs.

Seven rounds in and the Brumbies remain top of the ladder after showing championship-winning qualities in their 23-20 victory over the Bulls in Canberra.

Christian Lealiifano's nerveless after-the-siren penalty to deny the Pretorians earned the Brumbies their fifth win from six starts ahead of Friday night's hosting of the last-placed Southern Kings.

But it is the fast-approaching round-10 showdown with the Reds that looms as critical for the competition frontrunners.

Queensland are still neck and neck with their ACT rivals after squeezing out an historic 34-33 success against the Highlanders in Dunedin, the Reds' first-ever Super Rugby road win over the New Zealanders.

With the Reds enjoying a bye next week followed by a tough away clash with the defending champion Chiefs and the Brumbies heavy favourites to beat the Kings and then the winless Highlanders, the all-Australian clash at Suncorp Stadium on April 20 shapes as vital for both sides' home finals hopes.

Having played the Sharks and Stormers away and seen off the Bulls, the Brumbies have emerged from arguably the toughest run of their season in a position of strength.

"We're a side that knows how to get the points when we need to," said skipper Ben Mowen.

"There was a lot of factors into why it was a challenging week. Huge travel week for us, we had one session, a very light captain's run.

"It was a lot about guys mentally getting themselves right. And the challenge for every side is to come home and perform. A grinding win is good. Four points is four points."

With the NSW Waratahs still only mid-table despite their 23-19 win over the Western Force, a victory over the Reds would likely catapult the Brumbies clear in the Australian conference halfway through the competition.

The Chiefs consolidated their position atop the New Zealand conference, and second overall, with a 23-16 victory over the Blues in Hamilton, while the Sharks are still South African leaders, and third overall, after enjoying the weekend bye.

The Crusaders are fifth, behind the fourth-placed Reds, after surviving a late rally from the Stormers to prevail 19-14 at Newlands in Cape Town.

The Cheetahs are the big movers, climbing into the top six with a 34-16 victory over the Rebels in Bloemfontein, their fourth straight win after a highly successful Australasian tour.