For the second time in as many games this series, a sin-binning turned the game on its head.
In game one, NSW paid the price for Michael Jennings's ill-discipline, but last night it benefited from playing 10 minutes with the extra man, capitalising on Cooper Cronk's sin-binning to send the series up to Brisbane for a decider.
Cronk may have saved his side six points when he denied a charging Todd Carney a chance at collecting a Mitchell Pearce grubber in the 42nd minute, but it cost the Maroons double, with NSW scoring 12 points in the next five minutes to set up the win. The Blues, trailling 6-4 at the time, pleaded for a penalty try, but referee Ben Cummins told NSW skipper Paul Gallen ''we have to have no doubt he would've scored'', unable to confidently rule against Maroons fullback Billy Slater getting to the ball in front of Carney.
When Jennings departed Etihad Stadium for 10 minutes in game one after collecting Brent Tate with a haymaker, Queensland took just four minutes to make the Blues pay.
The Blues did it twice as fast and twice as effective, scoring the first of their two tries in the 10-minute period just two minutes after Cronk left the field. Having kicked the penalty goal following Cronk's sin-binning to level the score, after 124 minutes of mediocrity this series, Carney finally injected himself into rugby league's biggest arena.
With the game in the balance and his team desperate for one of its playmakers to spark something in attack, Carney answered the call.
He was guilty of not taking the line on enough in game one, but he showed how dangerous he can be when he challenges the defence, bursting into open space after brushing past a tackle from Ashley Harrison early in the second half.
The Cronulla No.6 did well to draw Slater and lay it up for Brett Stewart, who outran Darius Boyd to the tryline to send the Blues into the lead.
Two minutes later Jarryd Hayne ignited the Blues with a barnstorming run out of his own half, but he was stopped by Johnathan Thurston, who stripped the ball from his grasp to bring his run to a sudden halt. But Josh Morris played to the whistle and picked up the scraps, running 60 metres down field to force the referees to send it up to the video referee. Steve Clark ruled try.