Cheetahs pip Zebre at the death
Tries from Matteo Minozzi and Oliviero Fabiani seemingly set the hosts on course for victory while Carlo Canna was deadly from the tee against the South Africans.
But the visitors were dangerous throughout and scored two tries of their own from Makazole Mapimpi – the second setting up a grandstand finish.
And Zeilinga came off the bench to kick the winning points, earning his side their first ever away win in the Pro14.
Following a one-point defeat to Edinburgh last time out, Zebre had a point to prove but they faced a substantial challenge against a Cheetahs side that had won two of their last three games.
And if Zebre needed any further evidence about the size of the task they were up against then the Cheetahs gave it to them in the fifth minute.
A neat move resulted in Mapimpi, one of the league's most dangerous wings, touching down for his sixth try of the season.
But Zebre, buoyed on by their home supporters, rallied as Minzzoi dotted down just minutes after Canna booted two of his three penalties.
The Italian flyhalf kicked another to give the home side an eight-point lead at the break and they stretched that when Fabiani rumbled over for a superb score.
Yet the Cheetahs hit back as Mapimpi scored his second of the match with a fine finish and Ernst Stapelberg slotted through three penalties.
Zebre thought they had done enough to win but Zeilinga came off the bench to score the winning points, giving the away side their fourth win of the season.
Tries: Minozzi, Fabiani
Cons: Canna 2
Pens: Canna 3
Tries: Mapimpi 2
Pens: Stapelberg 3, Zeilinga
Yellow card: Johannes Coetzee (Cheetahs, 53 – cynical play)
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Leonard Krumow, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Sami Panico.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Jacopo Sarto, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Cheetahs: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Oupa Mohoje, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Nico Lee.
Referee: Dan Jones
Assistant Referees: Andrea Piardi, Gianluca Gnecchi
TMO: Alan Falzone