With 15 minutes left, Wellington had a four-point lead after replacement back Cheyne Copeland's try was converted by first five-eighths Amanda Rasch to give them a 22-18 lead, and the sniff of a boilover.
But as rugby fans in New Zealand well know, 15 minutes is a long time to maintain a lead in the final stages of a game against a Canterbury side.
Wellington did themselves no favours when losing locks Jackie Patea-Fereti and Joanah Ngan-Woo to the sin-bin in the 71st and 79th minutes respectively.
Given the weight in numbers Canterbury did what was required by utilising their lineout advantage before scoring the match-winning try.
It came from a rolling lineout maul, a concern for Wellington as they had conceded consecutive penalties when bringing down mauls, the second resulting in Ngan-Woo's sin-binning.
From another kick to touch, Canterbury mounted another drive at the line and try as Wellington might they were unable to stem the tide and it was replacement forward Amy Rule who had control of the ball at the back to score and ensure the home side of a 23-22 win.
There was still time for two minutes more play but Wellington's desperation resulted in two more penalties that allowed Canterbury to take the pressure off to get home for the win.
As a result of their win, and because Auckland's Storm had the bye, Canterbury moved to the head of the Premiership with 13 points while Auckland are on 10 with a game in hand.
Counties Manukau's Heat proved too hot for Otago when moving into third position with a comfortable 39-7 win over Otago while Waikato, in their second game, beat their Bay of Plenty Volcanix neighbours 27-10.
In the Championship, Manawatu's Cyclones are the only unbeaten side after they beat Northland 39-12. Hawke's Bay's Tuis are in second place after a home 45-24 win over North Harbour, although both teams are on six points. Northland shares fourth equal place with Taranaki Whio, who beat Tasman 34-12.
Week Three results:
Hawke's Bay Tuis 45 North Harbour Hibiscus 24
Hawke's Bay Tuis 45 (Gemma Woods 2, Krysten Cottrell, Nicolette Adamson 2, Iukika Faavae tries; Cottrell 3 con, 3 pen) North Harbour Hibiscus 24 (Kate Williams, Katelyn Hilton, Jessie Courtenay Malupo, Inga Timani tries; Hayley Hutana 2 con). HT: 22-17
Taranaki 34 Tasman 12
Taranaki 34 (Tiana Davidson, Hannah McLean, Aroha Nuku 2, Chelsea Fowler, Keighley Simpson tries; Chloe Sampson 2 con) Tasman 12 (Eve Findlay, Sui Pauaraisa tries; Findlay con). HT: 17-12
Bay of Plenty Volcanix 10 Waikato 27
Bay of Plenty Volcanix 10 (Karli Faneva, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook tries) Waikato 27 (Cheyelle Robins-Reti 2, Grace Houpapa-Barrett 2, Chelsea Alley tries; Ariana Bayler con). HT: 5-22
Northland 12 Manawatu 39
Northland 12 (Sela Moata'ane, Krystal Murray tries; Murray con) Manawatu 39 (Jayme Nuku, Rhiarna Ferris, Corrineke Windle, Kahurangu Sturmey, Lauren Basillie tries; Carys Dallinger 4 con, 2 pen). HT: 0-27
Counties Manukau Heat 39 Otago Spirit 7
Counties Manukau Heat 39 (Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Ocean Tierney, Kataraina Enosa-Taifau, Ti Tauasosi, Dayna Moon 2 tries; Hazel Tubic 3 con, pen) Otago Spirit 7 (Gemma Millar try; Sheree Hume con). HT: 29-7
Canterbury 23 Wellington 22
Canterbury 23 (Grace Brooker, Isabella Waterman, Amy Rule tries; Kendra Cocksedge con, 2 pen) Wellington 22 (Lyric Faleafaga , Joanah Ngan-Woo, Cheyne Copeland tries; A Rasch 2 con, pen). HT: 13-8