Queensland Claws Back Origin Pride, Dash NSW Dreams Of Clean Sweep
The Baby Blues have taken the series, but the Maroons have denied them Game III.
Queensland have provided one final highlight for Billy Slater, downing NSW 18-12 in State of Origin III in Brisbane to provide a fitting farewell and deny the Blues their first series whitewash in 18 years.
While it was an emotional send-off for stand-in skipper Slater in his 31st and final Origin, it marked a happy return for Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in front of a 51,214-strong crowd.
The polarising playmaker finally won over the Maroons faithful with a masterful display in his first Origin in three years.
Keen for their first sweep since 2000, NSW looked like they would play the role of party poopers when they somehow snatched a 12-8 halftime lead despite having five-eighth James Maloney in the bin and little possession.
And man of the moment Slater had been denied a try not once but twice.
Yet the Maroons dug deep to recapture the never say die attitude that had propelled them to 11 series wins in the last 12 years to finally break their 2018 duck.
Slater took over the Maroons captaincy for the first time in his final game after Greg Inglis broke his thumb.
With Inglis sidelined, Slater was the last man standing from Queensland's 2006 team that sparked their remarkable decade of dominance.
It closed the curtain on Slater's 14 year Origin career but it seems Cherry-Evans' is about to take off.
The Manly skipper looked to have ended speculation he had fallen out with the Maroons by becoming their poster boy on Wednesday.
He had a hand in winger Valentine Holmes' second try in the 51st minute before crashing over himself seven minutes later after a Cameron Munster break, giving the hosts the lead 18-12.
NSW threatened a last minute try but Holmes dramatically snuffed out the Blues' attack with a diving intercept at full stretch. The Blues claimed their 14th series 2-1.
The omens weren't good for Queensland when Trevor Gillmeister slipped down the stairs leaving a special pre-game on-field presentation honouring former Maroons skippers.
It didn't get better when Slater was denied a fourth minute try off a Cherry-Evans kick, with the video referee ruling a knock on.
And in the 31st, Slater was obstructed by Maloney trying to reel in a Cameron Munster grubber.
Maloney was sin binned - but it was the Blues who struck next.
In a remarkable display of defensive grit, NSW endured six straight sets by Queensland as they were forced to kick goal-line drop-out after drop-out before sinking the slipper into the hosts.
With Queensland enjoying 70 per cent possession with 10 minutes left, NSW defied being a man down by scoring twice in three minutes.
NSW winger Tom Trbojevic snapped up Munster's errant pass in the 37th minute and ran 90m to score.
Then three minutes later fullback James Tedesco caught Josh McGuire out in defence and crashed over.
Meanwhile, NSW centre Latrell Mitchell may be in strife for a third minute shoulder charge on Slater.