An 81st-minute Ned Hanigan try has sealed a 34-27 win at the death for the Waratahs over the Stormers.
Both sides had traded blows at every opportunity all night, with each score responded to in kind and the Waratahs had the bulk of the chances late, but coughed up the ball a handful of times.
A young front row took an unlikely tighthead in the scrum and the Waratahs had one last chance to attack, as the siren blew, with Hanigan taking the last pass off Harry Johnson-Holmes to score almost a minute after full-time.
It was a win that went a long way to dispelling much of the criticism of 2017, with NSW hanging tough until the final seconds, and showing some much-needed desperation when the luck, and the numbers, were against them.
Returning centre Kurtley Beale showed a bit of his X-factor in just the fourth minute but a chip kick to himself went over the dead ball line, in one of the few chances the Waratahs had with the ball, holding just 30 per cent possession in that first half.
Stormers captain Siya Kolisi narrowly avoided a yellow card after a deliberate knock on, and though the Waratahs managed to slot an ensuing penalty, the Stormers snatched the advantage straight back, with loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff crashing over from the restart, an area that became an increasing liability as the game went on.
The Waratahs showed a spot of growth not long after, though, with a sharp Israel Folau returning serve in the 18th minute, collecting a contested kick to score his first of 2018.
Another NSW chance went begging due to what appeared a deliberate knock on from Dillyn Leyds, though referee Angus Gardner opted to stay away from the pocket and any penalty try.
Deep in their attacking zone, the Waratahs eventually made the Stormers pay, with Michael Hooper completing a lineout play to score a pressure-relieving try.
The Stormers had a return of serve themselves, with flanker Kobus Van Wyk able to even up the scores with just minutes to go before the break.
Beale orchestrated the perfect start to the second half for the Waratahs, with a cross-field kick landing in front of Curtis Rona, who collected the kick and passed off to hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.
The Stormers were left with a major injury worry, wunderkind flyhalf Damian Willemse limping off just after half-time.
NSW’s scrum began to crumble under South African pressure and SP Marais was the beneficiary in the 52nd minute, scoring a phase out of the scrum, equalising the scores once again.
The blow torch on their forwards went from intense to extreme when Rob Simmons was given a controversial yellow card for obstructing the lineout jumper.
A man down, the Waratahs showed some of their newfound, and much-spruiked, desire, with Beale going just centimetres short of scoring, before the two sides traded penalties to stay level.
That was when things began to get frantic, a raft of changes made for both sides, and the speed went up a notch as the Waratahs took the ball into attack.
The Stormers had their chance to snatch the match after turning over, but it was the Waratahs who gave up a handful in the hectic final stages.
A rookie Waratahs front row managed an unlikely tighthead to give them one last chance and they finally made it count, through Hanigan.
The Waratahs travel to Africa on Sunday for a clash with the Sharks, not back in Sydney until round four.
Tries: Folau, Hooper, Fitzpatrick, Hanigan
Cons: Foley 4
Pens: Foley 2
Yellow Cards: Simmons (57’)
Tries: Kitshoff, Van Wyk, Marais
Cons: Marais 2
Pens: Marais 2