In a tightly-fought match that also doubled as a National Provincial Championship first division game, Canterbury were never fully in control of the result until the dying moments of the match.
After withstanding persistent Waikato pressure, Canterbury substitute Vilimoni Delasau hacked on a loose ball and beat the Waikato defence to the touchdown to seal the 23-15 win for the red and blacks.
Waikato had gone into the break 12-10 ahead after a five-pointer to Byron Kelleher and a converted try to Keith Lowen had cancelled out a Caleb Ralph try and a conversion and penalty from Ben Blair.
The visitors then dominated the opening 20 minutes of the second half as they kept the ball in hand and worked through the phases and camped in the Canterbury 22.
But they were unable to get the vital breakthrough with fly-half Stephen Donald held up over the line before wing Sitiveni Sivivatu conceded the penalty which allowed Canterbury to punt the ball down field and clear their lines.
Blair then stepped up to slot his second penalty to nudge Canterbury 13-12 ahead.
A try-saving tackle from Sione Lauaki prevented Canterbury from extending their lead and in the 71st minute Hill slotted his first penalty to put Waikato back in front.
But Blair responded four minutes later with three points of his own, and Canterbury never looked back.
Elsewhere, Auckland's winning run was brought to an end in emphatic fashion by Taranaki who beat them 40-19 at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
Auckland dominated the opening 20 minutes to race to a 13-0 lead thanks to an intercept try by lock Brad Mika and two penalties and a conversion by fullback Brent Ward.
But Taranaki hit back strongly in the final 10 minutes of the first half, scoring two tries in four minutes through full-back James Hilgendorf and hooker Andrew Hore to trail by just a point at half-time.
The second half belonged to Taranaki who scored a further four tries. Captain Paul Tito led the charge and was followed over the line by fly-half Sam Young, number eight Chris Masoe and second-row partner Jason Eaton as Auckland lost their way.
Ward's penalty was the only score the visitors could muster in a disappointing second-half performance.
Auckland now sit in second behind Canterbury but ahead of Wellington and North Harbour who complete the top four.
Wellington ran riot against Southland at Westpac Stadium with Roy Kinikinilau scoring three of his side's seven tries in a 53-12 rout.
Full-back Shannon Paku added another two with Thomas Waldrom and Conrad Smith also crossing the whitewash.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth converted six tries and chipped in with another two penalties for a haul of 18 points.
Southland fired late in the game when Wellington became disjointed after a raft of substitutions by coach John Plumtree.
Mana Harrison finally got them on the board before Conrad Smith was adjudged to have tackled Watsone Lotawa off the ball as the pair chased the ball and referee awarded a penalty try which Richard Apanui converted.