Sportal.co.nz 16.Mar.2013Getty Images
Three first-half tries gave the hosts a healthy 22-9 lead at the break and they took that intensity to the second half, where they secured a bonus-point fourth try within minutes of second half.
The result was the Bulls' first defeat of their 2013 Investec Super Rugby campaign, while it was the Crusaders' first win after three matches.
The significant difference in tactics was noticeable early before the hosts' confidence gave them a chance to penetrate the kick-heavy Bulls.
Gone were the predictable set pieces of a week earlier against the Hurricanes. Instead it was an unpredictability and an ability to keep the ball alive that gave the hosts a victory to silence their critics.
Dan Carter and Morne Steyn traded penalties in a scrappy, error-ridden first quarter before both sides warmed to the occasion.
The hosts were in soon after as Robbie Fruean finished off a patient move to ease any hometown nerves.
Reid crossed over soon after for his 14th Super Rugby try before two Steyn penalties brought the deficit back to six.
Then on the stroke of halftime, a patient passage of play saw McNicholl score his first try for the franchise and extend the lead to 22-9.
With a new-found confidence, the hosts attacked at will early in the second half and they were rewarded with their bonus-point try to Tom Marshall.
An electric move saw Marshall scythe past two defenders en route to scoring the franchise's fourth try of the match to the delight of the near sell-out crowd at AMI Stadium.
When Wyatt Crockett dotted down for the side's fifth try, the Crusaders held a 34-12 lead with 15 minutes to play.
Deon Stegman scored from close range for the visitors to bring an element of respectability to the scoreline, but that was snuffed out when Willi Heinz scored to give the Crusaders a commanding 41-19 victory.
Crusaders 41 (Robbie Fruean, Kieran Read, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Marshall, Wyatt Crockett, Willi Heinz tries; Dan Carter 4 con, pen) Bulls 19 (Deon Stegman try; Morne Steyn con, 4 pen) HT: 22-9