The black and white jerseys, who had a bye in the previous round, had the advantage at the break having scored three tries, two conversions and a penalty goal while the Sigma Lions responded with two converted tries.
However, the Joburg outfit found their rhythm in the second half to score three tries, including two penalty tries, to upset the more fancied hosts in front of their fans. The two bonus points the Cell C Sharks managed to gain from this game means they are one point behind the Airlink Pumas (27 points) and in fifth place on the league table with only next weekend’s final round-robin games remaining.
KZN flyhalf Joaquin Bonilla got the first points on the scoreboard when he succeeded with a straight penalty goal kick to raise the flags. Flank Thembelani Bholi used his strength to fight his way over for a converted try as the hosts increase the lead to 10-0.
The visitors then woke up from their slumber as first outside centre Henco Van Wyk crossed the line for a try converted by Tiaan Swanepoel, before left wing Edwill van der Merwe split the home defence with some deft footwork and a burst of speed to provide an assist for Van Wyk, who dotted down for his second try to edge the Gauteng side 14-10 ahead.
Meantime, former Cell C Sharks No 9 Sanele Nohamba, playing for the first time against his previous team since his move up to Johannesburg, was yellow carded for a no-arms tackle.
The home side then found another gear which saw debutant hooker Jason Alexander cross the line in quick succession to steer the black and white jerseys to a 22-14 halftime advantage.
After the break, the visiting pack dominated the scrums and saw great reward with two penalty tries which enabled them to gain the upper hand at 28-22 in their favour.
And soon they were at it again when towering lock Ruben Schoeman scooped up a ball close to the line to go over for their fifth try of the evening.
But the home side hit back when right wing Marnus Potgieter scored a gem of a try out wide and when Bonilla sent the difficult conversion through the upright, the gap narrowed to 35-29 in favour of the Highvelders.
Swanepoel and Bonilla then traded successful penalties as the match ended in 38-32 in favour of the visitors. The Cell C Sharks travel down to Cape Town next week for their final regular fixture against the DHL Stormers.
Cell C Sharks 32 (22) – Tries: Thembelani Bholi, Jason Alexander (2), Marnus Potgieter. Conversions: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla (3). Penalty goals: Bonilla (2).
Sigma Lions 38 (14) - Tries: Henco Van Wyk (2), Penalty Tries (2), Ruben Schoeman. Conversions: Tiaan Swanepoel (3). Penalty goal: Swanepoel.