Defensively superb, the DHL Stormers made the most of the few opportunities they had and left Pretoria with four tries - including a brilliant brace by Edwill van der Merwe (wing) - while the Vodacom Bulls were left wondering how they almost lost this match.
But "almost lost" is always better than "almost won", and while the Vodacom Bulls will be happy with the full house of log points, they will probably not jump for joy at the video session on Monday.
The men from Pretoria had the most possession and territorial advantage, and while they clearly wanted to score tries, mistakes and wrong options almost cost them dearly in the end.
However, they made their last chance count when Nortje barged over after numerous phases in the DHL Stormers' 22 and the clock in the red.
Full credit to the Capetonians for weathering a massive blue storm, putting in tackle after tackle after tackle as the Vodacom Bulls opted for tries rather than penalty goals.
The home team's tactics didn't pay off most of the time, even though the DHL Stormers had two players in the bin at the same time, Damian Willemse (fullback) and Rikus Pretorius (centre) for deliberate knock downs.
The Vodacom Bulls did score a try, a great move from the back of a lineout from Springbok loose forward Marcell Coetzee on debut, but the DHL Stormers defended like Trojans for most of the first half and kept the blue waves at bay, with Steven Kitshoff (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (flanker) and Evan Roos (No 8) leading the charge.
When Elrigh Louw (flanker) finally went over for the Vodacom Bulls, the try was disallowed after a successful captain's referral from Kitshoff.
To compound matters for the Vodacom Bulls, their influential captain, Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen, hobbled off late in the first half - 10 mnutes after the DHL Stormers lost their Springbok scrumhalf, Herschel Jantjies, to injury.
On the contrary, the visitors had two opportunities and converted both, with Van der Merwe prominent.
First, the DHL Stormers speedster hacked ahead a loose ball before Damian Willemse (fullback) pounced to saunter over from a turnover on the Vodacom Bulls' tryline.
Then Van der Merwe made a great break and rounded off in the left corner after the ball had been spread to the right and back left.
With Tim Swiel (flyhalf) adding two conversions and penalty goal, the DHL Stormers took a deserved if someone fortuitous 17-7 lead at the break.
The Vodacom Bulls started the second half much better and took the lead after two converted maul tries by Johan Grobbelaar (hooker), but it was short-lived when Swiel went over from a bad kick chase by the home team.
The home team had two more tries disallowed - one from the TMO and one from another successful captain's challenge by the DHL Stormers, but they were clearly shifting gears.
Morne Steyn (flyhalf) finally got a three-pointer to put the Vodacom Bulls back in the lead, but the DHL Stormers refused to give up with Van der Merwe's second try with 10 minutes left.
The Vodacom Bulls held their nerves though and when they were handed an opportunity with second left on the clock, Nortje made sure they celebrated.
Vodacom Bulls 31 (7) - Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Johan Grobbelaar (2), Ruan Nortje. Conversions: Morne Steyn (4). Penalty goal: Steyn.
DHL Stormers 27 (17) - Tries: Damian Willemse, Edwill van der Merwe (2), Tim Swiel. Conversions: Swiel (2). Penalty goal: Swiel.