It took almost 85 minutes, but the ACT Brumbies hearts were left broken once more.
They were brave. They finished with 13 men. But the only numbers that mattered were the ones on the scoreboard.
And those read 19-16 in favour of the Queensland Reds, who claimed a drought-breaking Super Rugby AU title in front of 41,637 at Brisbane's Lang Park on Saturday night.
James O'Connor dived over to score the match-winning try, marking the third time the Reds had overturned a half-time deficit to beat the Brumbies this season. But referee Nic Berry is set to come under fire for a controversial finish.
Just one phase prior to O'Connor's match-winner, Taniela Tupou had been stopped just short of the line. The Brumbies were adamant he had knocked the ball on but Berry allowed play to continue. Allan Alaalatoa asked for the TMO, but was told it had been cleared.
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The Brumbies had already repelled wave after wave of attacking raids. Two yellow cards meant the Brumbies had just six men to pack scrums five metres out from their own line after time had elapsed. Darcy Swain and Luke Reimer had been sent for 10.
There had to be a chink in the armour somewhere - the Brumbies were on the wrong end of a 20-8 penalty count - and so many had gone within a whisker of finding it before O'Connor did.
"Obviously shattered, gutted, incredibly proud but at the same time, not a lot to say to be honest. It's heartbreaking," Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.
"I couldn't be prouder of the boys that wore a Brumbies jersey tonight. I thought they were brilliant. Backs to the wall, a lot of injuries out of last week, we're just shattered."
Fraser McReight claimed man of the match honours, but Brumbies No. 8 Rob Valetini was arguably best on ground. He was nothing short of inspirational in one of the all-time classic Australian derbies.
But he too had seen yellow when Berry sent him for a stint on the sideline in the 61st minute after a heavy shot on Reds winger Jock Campbell.
To that point, Valetini had been a standout. Questions hovered over how the Brumbies would cope without the presence of James Slipper and the damaging running of Pete Samu.
A dominant opening half from Tupou gave the Reds the ascendancy at scrum time, yet wrecking ball Valetini more than covered for Samu at No. 8.
If one thing is certain, both Valetini and Tupou must be among the first picked by Dave Rennie to pull on the famed gold jersey against France.
The Brumbies had their chances early but failed to strike. Penalties and errors threatened to scupper the momentum.
But the thing about a team with the likes of McKellar and Laurie Fisher pulling the strings is, panic buttons have all but been removed from the system.
Instead the visitors painted a picture of composure and persistence, which paid off as Irae Simone and Lolesio combined to put an untouched Tom Banks over for the first try, countering O'Connor's early penalty.
Nic White's ankle denied Feao Fotuaika in Queensland's best chance to cross the stripe. Instead O'Connor and Lolesio traded penalties to close out the scoring in the first half, with the Brumbies taking a 13-6 lead into the break.
Yet that did little to comfort the few specks of blue and gold among the Brisbane crowd. Twice this season the reigning champions have squandered bigger leads against the Reds.
The Brumbies would have to finish the job without winger Andy Muirhead, after he limped off the field with an injury at the 35-minute mark to give Mack Hansen his shot.
But the Canberra junior's first real involvement turned sour. An O'Connor penalty attempt rebounded off the uprights and Hansen dropped it, with the domino effect soon giving the Reds playmaker another shot at goal. This time he struck truly. And soon after Valetini saw yellow, O'Connor cut the margin to one.
And then, he overturned it to bring one of the biggest crowds in Super Rugby history to their feet.
Couple that crowd with a likely increase in television ratings in a free-to-air primetime slot, and it is little wonder the competition's success has given Rugby Australia "something to ponder".
The Brumbies have little time to lick their wounds. Awaiting them are Super Rugby Aotearoa's triumphant Canterbury Crusaders.
AT A GLANCE
Super Rugby AU final: QUEENSLAND REDS 19 (James O'Connor try; O'Connor conversion; O'Connor 4 penalties) bt ACT BRUMBIES 16 (Tom Banks try; Noah Lolesio conversion; Lolesio 3 penalties) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 41,637.