While the Bulls had underperformed in previous weeks, things seemed to click for the hosts as they dominated every aspect of play to shut the Cheetahs out.
The victory kept the Bulls in the running to secure a place in the playoffs, lifting them off the bottom rung of the Currie Cup ladder, while the Cheetahs dropped down to the bottom of the log.
Bulls flyhalf Louis Fouche opened the scoring with a penalty conversion in the fourth minute while Cheetahs winger Nico Scheepers returned the favour four minutes later.
The Pretoria side got over the whitewash in the 12th minute when eighthman Arno Botha pierced the Cheetahs’ defensive line.
The talented loose forward calmly offloaded to a speeding Sampie Mastriet, who scored in the corner, with Fouche missing the conversion kick.
Scheepers closed the gap once again with a successful shot at goal in the 17th minute to take the scores to 8-6.
Fouche then stepped up to the plate to slot over a monstrous attempt at goal from deep inside his own half.
He succeeded with two more penalty conversions to extend the Bulls’ lead to 11 points with eight minutes left in the opening period.
The Cheetahs then added another three points on the half-time whistle with Scheepers converting a penalty to reduce the home side’s advantage.
After the break, Fouche converted another penalty conversion to regain their 18-point lead.
The Cheetahs, however, refused to bow down as they hit back with two tries within the space of 10 minutes.
The visiting attack found a new spark as Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske sent Sias Ebersohn on to replace Tewis de Bruyn at flyhalf.
It was, however, exciting backline player Raymond Rhule who was rewarded in the 53rd minute for an all-round sterling performance on the night, with Scheepers converting.
Midway through the second half the Cheetahs once again found a gap in the Bulls’ defence with Scheepers scoring in the right hand corner and converting his own try.
The closing minutes were filled with drama with the Bulls defending a four-point lead.
The hosts, however, took the game out of the Cheetahs’ reach as replacement loose forward CJ Stander added his name to the try scoring sheet with four minutes remaining in the encounter.
The Free Staters had the last say of the match as prop Marcel van der Merwe scored the final try with a minute left on the clock.
Scorers: Bulls 34 (17): Tries: Sampie Mastriet, Franco Mostert, CJ Stander. Conversions: Louis Fouche (2). Penalties: Fouche (5).
Free State Cheetahs 30 (9): Tries: Raymond Rhule, Nico Scheepers, Marcel van der Merwe. Conversions: Scheepers (3). Penalties: Scheepers (3).- Sapa