The Rebels’ grip on the conference is slipping after they lost a third straight game to welcome back the chasing pack over the weekend.
It sets up a mouth-watering second bout between Quade Cooper and Brad Thorn in Melbourne.
Queensland coach Thorn was just three days into his first pre-season as a Super Rugby head coach when he unceremoniously dumped veteran Cooper from the Reds squad in late 2017.
The move banished Cooper to Brisbane club rugby for 2018 but the 70-Test playmaker returned through the Rebels this season and beat Thorn’s men when they first met in round seven.
The Reds drew level with the Rebels on five wins after defeating the Sunwolves on Friday, and now sit two points adrift of the conference table toppers.
But if Queenslanders beat the Rebels they’ll go top of the Australian conference for the first time in six years.
There are six rounds remaining in what is shaping as the closest Australian conference in history.
The Brumbies have played an additional game but they face the bottom-placed Sunwolves twice, the first instalment in Canberra on Sunday.
The Waratahs meet the Lions in Johannesburg for the second leg of their South African tour.
The Jaguares forced their way into the top eight with a hard-fought win against the Stormers, which means all five teams in their conference are separated by just one win.
Two-time reigning champions the Crusaders remain on top of the overall ladder, six points clear of the Hurricanes and 14 ahead of the Bulls.
Brad Thorn after win against Sunwolves:
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