It took a two-man advantage for Queensland and even then it was sketchy on a night that saw five yellow cards, one red and the Sunwolves enter the closing stages of a bizarre contest with just 12 men on the field.
But the Reds (5-5) will take their 32-26 defeat of the Tokyo side as they stumble within two points of their Super Rugby conference leaders Melbourne.
Fourteen played 12 in the final 10 minutes on Friday as both sides saw red and yellow in farcical Suncorp Stadium scenes while the depleted visitors tried to jag what would have been an incredible match-winner.
The hosts hung on but would have infuriated coach Brad Thorn with their decision making and execution given the head start handed to them by the Sunwolves, who pushed the boundaries with 18 penalties throughout the evening.
"Man, wow ... people keep telling me it's four points," Thorn said, shrugging his shoulders as he almost took pity on the officials.
"A lot of infringements, not what I'd call attractive rugby and I was disappointed with how we handled that.
"We made hard work of it ... but it's better than losing ugly."
Queensland butchered ample chances after both Semisi Masirewa and Masataka Mikami were yellow carded trying to illegally slow the Reds' charge.
Refusing to probe the edges and exploit the overlap, the Reds instead turned the ball over in two scrums and a driving maul when in perfect field position to trail 13-8 at halftime.
But Masirewa's second yellow for a marginal high tackle was a gift that left the Sunwolves a man down for the last 30 minutes.
Bryce Hegarty's calm cross-field kick found Sefa Naivalua for the go-ahead try but that only provided brief respite.
Leading 25-19, a horror pass from an unaware Hamish Stewart found Gerhard van den Heever's waiting arms to see them go ahead by one.
That still wasn't the end of it though, with another Reds surge leading to another yellow card for Yu Tamura.
Down to 13 men they couldn't stop Brandon Paenga-Amosa from burrowing over, after he had been denied on review from doing similar minutes earlier.
The final chapter of a shambolic evening played out when young Reds forward Harry Hockings was red carded for a boot to the head and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco was shown yellow for clinging to his leg in the first place.
Tamura returned for the final seconds of the match as the Reds scraped through to shoot to second on the live conference standings ahead of games against Melbourne and the Waratahs in the next fortnight.