For two years there had been a sense of bloodyminded defiance about the Blues' quest. Their competitive displays seemed a victory of mind over matter. But inevitably, there was no victory at all.
Now, it is all so real. Just one game away. The Blues can surely smell it. Taste it.
Could it be the sweetest victory of all - a series-clinching win on Queensland turf? It's a mission the Blues will enter emboldened after a wonderful performance. There is also the significant cushion of game three at home.
But why entertain a defeatist thought like that? Not after a victory replete with symbolic acts of individual heroism and defiance. One in which NSW absorbed, for the final 20 spine-tingling minutes, everything the resurgent Maroons threw at them; yet they somehow held their nerve and wrung their bodies dry to not merely survive - but to triumph.
That final battle of wills was Origin distilled. But the moment that will resonate is Michael Jennings' 37th minute try. Not merely because it padded the home team's lead to 14-0 and calmed their nerves after a period in which rare mistakes threatened to wake the sleeping Maroon giant. But because for seven years, it was the type of thing that just didn't happen to NSW.
The ball ricocheted off two Queenslanders into Jennings' hands. The rubber-limbed centre bounced left-right-left-right. Steal a Queenslander's barbecue tongs and you won't get five metres. Somehow Jennings went 15 metres unmolested through five would-be tacklers. Incredible, irresistible. Less edifying, for some, will be another Blues impression. That made by captain Paul Gallen's fists on Queensland forward Nate Myles' forehead. Let alone the swinging arm that had Gallen on report.
Law of the jungle? Barbarity excused as sport? Good old-fashioned Origin? The referee ticked the last box, putting Gallen on report for the swinging arm, but merely chiding him for the fisticuffs. ''What happened next [the punches], we are not going to tolerate that,'' the ref said. Of course, he already had. He had allowed Gallen to mark his territory in a manner very few other sports not played in a ring or a cage would allow. Should NSW wins the series, they will call it a great Origin moment.
For an hour, the greatest symbol of NSW supremacy was a zero - the Maroons' score. Queenslanders would rather endure the curtain-fading horror of daylight saving than such sustained ignominy. Captain Cameron Smith found it so distasteful he made a flagrant double-movement to ''score''. The type of desperate act that had been, for seven years, the Blues' abject response. Darius Boyd soon scored legally, and set the scene for a grandstand finish. But the worm had turned. This time, the Blues' defiance was matched by desperation. Flying cover defence, hard yards won by a mobile pack. Great debuts by James Maloney and Blake Ferguson. Ferguson might have trembled after fumbling his first carry. Instead he stood tall under an early barrage. If the first-gamer had a target on his back, none of the slings and arrows stuck.
As importantly, the Blues' stars emerged from the shadow of their storied Queensland counterparts. Cunningly, Parramatta had chosen Origin eve to announce they would sack a dozen players. Jarryd Hayne took the chance to show why he was not one of them. So 1-0. Brisbane next. You can taste it.