Queensland were going for their 60th match win, their 22nd Origin series victory and a ninth Origin decider, but they simply ran out of puff in trying to chase all that down.
The Maroons also had trouble trying to shut down James Tedesco, Damien Cook and Blake Ferguson at ANZ Stadium.
For a match locked up at 8-8 at half-time and 20-20 three minutes from full-time, it just slipped through Queensland's fingers in the final phases.
After having by far the better opening 40 minutes, even if they did concede seven first-half penalties, the Queenslanders created and absorbed several errors which swung the momentum of the game in the Blues' favour.
In the 43rd minute right centre Will Chambers ran 25 metres deep into NSW territory but then knocked on under the jolting tackle of Jack Wighton. His skipper Daly Cherry-Evans was on the inside unmarked.
Then Michael Morgan kicked out on the full. Then Morgan was knocked out cold due to an accidental elbow from Josh McGuire in trying to tackle Tedesco.
Interchange forward David Fifita came on, but then one of the Maroons best in Felise Kaufusi gave away a penalty (hand in the ruck) on the fifth tackle. Tedesco scored the Blues' second try to break the 8-8 deadlock from half-time.
From then on – with the Blues running at 55% possession – the Queenslanders were starting to look fatigued.
The fact Cook was able to run a weaving, 40-metre-line evading Fifita and fullback Cameron Munster to score proved just how much.
The score scooted out to 20-8 but then the Queenslanders must have remembered the sign on the top of the banner they ran through from the players' tunnel: 'More Than A Jersey'.
McGuire scored with nine minutes left on the clock and Josh Papalii five minutes later and the Queensland tank had been replenished with fuel.
But then it was Ferguson and Tedesco's turn to put on the after-burners.
So the second half-slip came through some handling errors and ineffective tackles creeping in. After a 100% completion rate in the first-half (18 from 18) Queensland dropped to 83% and missed 49 tackles to NSW's 36.
The extra spring in the Blues' step came was evident in seven line breaks to the Maroons' four.
It seemed cruel for a Queensland side where Papalii, Munster and debutants Corey Norman and Ethan Lowe stood out with Cherry-Evans everywhere he could be.
In the end perhaps it was just too much change for Queensland to handle.
There were four personnel changes since the game two 38-6 drubbing in Perth, with Kalyn Ponga (calf), Matt Gillett (groin) gone through injury, and forwards Dylan Napa, Jarrod Wallace just gone.
Then there were the two positional changes to the spine – debutant Norman in at five-eighth and regular No.6 Munster to fullback.
Then there was three team changes an hour before kick-off – centre Morgan to the bench, utility Moses Mbye to left centre and Lowe from 18th man to the second row.
Lowe was on a trajectory few have trodden in Origin.
He went from being a reserve to a possible bench spot, through Gillett's injury, to the starting 17. And he did all that while playing his first game in a Maroons.
Did we mention Lowe also had the goal-kicking duties with Ponga absent. He didn't miss with four from four.
Coach Kevin Walters all week had been talking about "trust and belief these players have in each other". He said that Sunday's final training session in Brisbane before the team travelled to Sydney was the most intense he'd seen all series.
He said his players had one mission "make Queenslanders proud".
Queensland didn't get the chocolates but they restored a fair bit of pride.