Australian rugby fans wanted a reason to hope.
So inside a Christchurch stadium on Saturday night, the plucky ACT Brumbies gave a nation of rugby tragics exactly what they had been crying out for.
The Brumbies would ultimately fall in heartbreaking fashion, down 31-29 to the Canterbury Crusaders in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman opener.
Noah Lolesio's last-minute conversion attempt faded left after Rob Valetini had barged over to give the rank outsiders hope of springing a stunning upset.
It was a loss, but it almost didn't feel like it - at least to those outside the club's inner sanctum. Dan McKellar's side took Super Rugby Aotearoa's champions to their limit. This Crusaders side is chasing its sixth consecutive piece of silverware, but McKellar was left gutted.
MORE RUGBY UNION
"We came here to win. We're not happy with romantic losses, we came here to win so we're disappointed we didn't win," McKellar said.
"We take confidence out of it. We're not intimidated, but very respectful. They're a great club, and a bunch of people. I can assure you we didn't come here to pull off a close loss, we came here to win.
"Yeah, we'll take confidence out of it, I'm not too bothered about the other Australian teams. All we can focus on is us.
"Tonight there were a lot of good moments but a couple of key moments within that game that in the end cost us. We kick on now, we head to Hamilton and look to get the job done."
The Crusaders have extended their winning streak over the Brumbies to 10 games, once more stamping their credentials as Super Rugby's premier franchise.
But win No. 10 in that streak came against a Brumbies team missing Nic White, James Slipper, Pete Samu, Cadeyrn Neville, Tom Cusack, Jahrome Brown, Connal McInerney, Andy Muirhead, Will Miller and James Tucker.
"Definitely proud of the effort, especially the fight we showed in the second half to bring us back in the game," Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said on Stan and Sky's post-match coverage.
"But obviously the boys are obviously devastated with the loss. We came out here to win, and it shows when you go up against the Crusaders you've got to play the perfect game.
"We're just going to review that well and just make sure we come out next week stronger."
There were moments many would have feared the Brumbies would simply fold; moments they could have rolled over and become easy prey.
Like when they fell 14 points in arrears heading into the final 10 minutes. Traditionally the final 20 minutes is their worst period in both attack and defence.
But this Brumbies side had a point to prove. Seven days prior they had let the Super Rugby AU title slip through their grasp in a loss to the Queensland Reds.
But while the Reds conceded 40 points in the Trans-Tasman opener, the Brumbies pushed one of the best provincial sides in the world to the brink.
The Crusaders capitalised on the weight of early possession as Ethan Blackadder scored inside five minutes, escaping with a suspect pass in the lead up. Yet it was hardly a picturesque opening.
Constant scrum resets chewed up the clock in the opening 20 minutes before loosehead prop Scott Sio charged over to open the Brumbies' account and show they were ready for the scrap.
But just as quickly as Noah Lolesio's conversion gave the Brumbies the lead, his Crusaders counterpart Richie Mo'unga took it away with a piece of individual brilliance.
A David Havili intercept saw the Crusaders take a 19-7 lead into the break, leaving McKellar's side in need of a miraculous turnaround if they were to become the first Australian team to land a blow in the Trans-Tasman tournament.
They would soon fall agonisingly short of one of the great comebacks, with tries to Tom Banks and Valetini slicing a 14-point deficit to just two before Lolesio's conversion attempt went astray, cruelly denying the Brumbies a famous draw.
"We knew we couldn't go into our shell," Alaalatoa said.
"We had to come out with the same mindset we had in the first half, which was to attack it. We're not happy with that. Definitely disappointed with the loss, but there is a lot of room there to grow."
Scrumhalf White missed the game with a hip flexor complaint but is hopeful of returning to the fray for next week's clash with the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.
"We'll see how he goes. I thought both the halfbacks tonight were very good for us," McKellar said.
"[Issak Fines-Leleiwasa] brought that point of difference, we played pretty quickly when he was on with a good tempo. I thought Lonergan was excellent as well.
"A lot of good signs but we're still disappointed we didn't get the W."
The round two clash marks a battle between the two beaten finalists hunting for redemption, while the Crusaders head to Brisbane for a Super Bowl-style showdown between two domestic champions.
AT A GLANCE
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman round one: CANTERBURY CRUSADERS 31 (Ethan Blackadder, Richie Mo'unga, David Havili, Brendon O'Connor, Cullen Grace tries; Mo'unga 3 conversions) bt ACT BRUMBIES 29 (Scott Sio, Irae Simone, Tom Banks, Rob Valetini tries; Noah Lolesio 3 conversions; Lolesio penalty) at Christchurch Stadium.