As Johnathan Thurston raised his arms in triumph Jason Taumalolo doubled over in exhaustion with the two North Queensland champions lifting their side to a pulsating golden point win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
For the fourth time in their past five encounters it took more than 80 minutes to find a winner with players from both teams either in the sheds nursing injuries or sprawled all over the turf with fatigue.
Like he does so often it was Thurston who landed the killer blow three minutes into the second period of golden point for a 21-20 victory for his side's second golden point win in two weeks.
Taumalolo raced out of the line in the first period of golden point to charge down Anthony Milford's second attempt at a match-winner and when Milford kicked the ball dead and gave the Cowboys a seven-tackle set, it was Taumalolo who conjured two customary charges to put Thurston in position to seal the deal.
All told the reigning Dally M Player of the Year ran for 231 metres in an astonishing 81-minute effort to go with the 295m he racked up against the Raiders in Round 1.
The only sour note facing the Kiwi international is the potential of a suspension from the match review committee after he was penalised for a shoulder charge on Alex Glenn in the 29th minute. The other blow for the Cowboys was losing winger Antonio Winterstein in the 13th minute to a suspected broken forearm that necessitated a reshuffle of the backline and Ethan Lowe shifting to right centre.
Prior to golden point Thurston engineered a set of six to put himself in perfect position to kick the match-winning field goal only to see it swing wide of the posts to the right and give the Broncos two minutes in which to launch their own tie-breaking attempt.
Milford set for it before he was harassed out of it by Cowboys back-rower Ethan Lowe and when Herman Ese'ese spilled possession in the next set with 13 seconds on the clock two valiant combatants went to extra time for the fourth time in their past five meetings.
Trailing 14-6 two minutes before half-time the Cowboys completely swung momentum their way with tries first to Michael Morgan before the break and another to Jake Granville two minutes into the second half.
When Matt Gillett left the field for Brisbane in the 49th minute the assignment looked even tougher but a try to Jordan Kahu from a suspect James Roberts pass 25 minutes from full-time saw scores levelled at 18 apiece.
A penalty for a second effort by Adam Blair in the ruck gave Thurston a gift two points from the right of the posts but when Jake Granville conceded two ruck penalties of his own Milford stepped up to draw level again six minutes from full-time.
Thousands of fans were still filing in as the game kicked off and it delivered customary drama from the very outset with the Cowboys stealing possession through Gavin Cooper before the Broncos had even got a touch.
But with the Broncos forwards winning the battle in the middle Hunt soon took control, showing much more composure and precision than he did a week ago against the Sharks to deliver key plays when his side needed them.
The third bullocking run from Korbin Sims gave Hunt the time and space to grubber into the in-goal for James Roberts to flash across and plant the ball down for the opening try in the seventh minute.
Coen Hess pushed past three Brisbane defenders to get one back for the Cowboys in the 19th minute but after Anthony Milford potted two penalty goals and Hunt again dropped a kick in behind the Cowboys defensive line for Darius Boyd to score the home side had opened up a 14-6 advantage.
That lead was almost erased completely in the shadows of half-time when Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan retained possession long enough from a Jake Granville pass to score under the posts.
North Queensland Cowboys 21 (Coen Hess, Michael Morgan, Jake Granville tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals, field goal) def. Brisbane Broncos 20 (James Roberts, Darius Boyd, Jordan Kahu tries; Anthony Milford 4 goals) after eight minutes of extra time at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 47,703. Half-time: Broncos 14-12. Holden Cup: Cowboys 20-18.