The visitors led 14-7 at halftime after making the most of their first-half scoring chances.
Although the result will have little effect on the second-placed Free Staters, who collected two points to move to 43 on the log, the outcome was a hugely important one for the side from Mpumalanga, who moved into fourth place on the league table with 27 points, although it might only be temporarily.
The Airlink Pumas will be hoping that the Sigma Lions can repeat their winning act of last weekend when they take on the Cell C Sharks (24 points) in the weekend’s remaining fixture in Durban on Saturday afternoon.
Namibian international hooker Louis van der Westhuizen (Toyota Cheetahs) and fullback Devon Williams (Airlink Pumas) each scored two tries apiece, both of whom managed to grab four tries.
Toyota Cheetahs captain Ruan Pienaar, in his 50th match in the white jersey, landed all four conversions as he kept his side in contention, however, he missed with a crucial long-range penalty close to the end which would have been the match-winning points. His opposite kicker, midfielder Eddie Fouche, slotted three conversions but, crucially, he succeeded with an easy penalty goal which proved to be the difference in the end.
The first half was a real arm wrestle and the Airlink Pumas showed their grit by scoring two tries and limiting the home side to just one converted try for a halftime lead of 14-7. It must be added that they were fortunate not to concede a second try in the opening stanza when a Cheetah try was ruled out because of a technical infringement.
Jimmy Stonehouse’s men made the perfect start when Williams opened the scoring. The home side levelled matters just before the halfway mark of the first half when Van der Westhuizen went over for the first of his two tries, scored from successful lineout maul, with Pienaar adding the extras with a superb angled conversion kick.
Eight minutes before the break, Airlink Pumas flyhalf Tinus de Beer collected a lineout overthrow to wrong foot several defenders on his way to scoring under the posts which Fouche easily converted to take the halftime score to 14-7 in their favour.
Williams repeated his try-scoring act shortly after the restart for the pink and grey jerseys when he won the foot-race to dot down Fouche's clever grubber for their third try which opened up a 12-point gap. But the Cheetahs clawed their way back with a try by No 6 flank Gideon van der Merwe, who wormed his way over from a maul for a converted try to narrow the margin to 19-14.
The Lowvelders showed their grit once more by scoring a fourth converted try through hooker Eddie Swart (26-14).
However, that man Van der Westhuizen was at it again when he dived over the line for his second try of the evening and his team's third as they stayed in the fight with the score 26-21 in favour of the visitors.
Shortly after slotting the conversion, the dependable Fouche then landed that crucial penalty goal, his first of the match, as his team opened an eight-point gap (29-21).
Right wing Daniel Kasende’s try out wide, off a lovey skip pass from Pienaar, raised the home team’s hope as their captain brought his side to withing a point with his fourth conversion to take the score to 29-28 with just minutes remaining.
With almost the last kick of the match, the experienced Pienaar failed to raise the flags with his long-range penalty goal effort – which meant a crucial away win for the Airlink Pumas who kept alive their semi-final ambitions.
Toyota Cheetahs 28 (7) - Tries: Louis van der Westhuizen (2), Gideon van der Merwe, Daniel Kasende. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4).
Airlink Pumas 29 (14) - Tries: Devon Williams (2), Tinus de Beer, Eddie Swart. Conversions: Eddie Fouche (3). Penalty goal: Fouche.