Queensland coach Paul Green has lauded his men after "living through" and prevailing in a classic State of Origin win that restored pride and dashed NSW's hopes of a rare series clean sweep.
The Maroons won 20-18 at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on Wednesday, rallying after losing the lead early in the first half then defending their line as the Blues looked set to break their hearts at the death.
Makeshift hooker Ben Hunt scored twice, Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga was electric in his first game of the series and punches were thrown on the fulltime siren as Green's under-pressure side breathed some late life into a series they had already meekly surrendered.
"We talk about Origin efforts and sometimes don't know what your'e talking about, but our team lived through that tonight," Green said.
"(I'm) really happy; it was a great win ... it was a real Origin-type game and we came out on top."
The Blues looked on track for their first series sweep since 2000 when called-up No.6 Jack Wighton burst over for a 12-8 lead early in the second half at Cbus Super Stadium.
But Hunt, usually a halfback at NRL level, darted over from dummy-half then finished off a Ponga break as the Maroons pushed ahead by eight points.
Blues hooker Api Koroisau won the race to a Mitchell Moses grubber-kick though, before first-half tryscorer Latrell Mitchell missed a 50m penalty kick that would have levelled the scores with a minute to play.
A desperate Ponga lunge had earlier knocked down a pass from man-of-the-series Tom Trbojevic that would have led to a try and they showed similar desperation to snuff out the Blues' last efforts in a well-overdue fighting performance from the hosts.
Queensland were more direct, their forwards more effective and with fullback Ponga floating out the back they, at last, had a presence in the series.
They had just one Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow try and a 8-6 half-time lead to show for it though, at one stage going eight straight sets on the Blues' line without success.
Like in Brisbane's Game II, Mitchell was a danger on both sides of the ball, strolling past Dane Gagai for the game's first try then swiping a Daly Cherry-Evans pass out of the air to defuse another Queensland raid.
The late venue switch to the Gold Coast didn't have the fortress feel of Suncorp Stadium, jeers greeting the hosts when they ran onto the ground in front of a near-capacity crowd of 26,307.
It didn't deter Queensland though, who took their first lead of the series after an early penalty and in Tabuai-Fidow seemingly had an answer to Tom Trbojevic's blinding speed on the flank.
After a 50-6 win in Townsville and a 26-0 shut-out in Brisbane, the Blues steadied and looked set to complete their whistlestop tour of Queensland with a more grinding victory.
Despite the loss, it was still the biggest series margin win in Origin history, the Blues outscoring Queensland by 68 points to eclipse their 62-point margin set in 2000.
"I don't think it slipped away, I never felt we were in control at any stage really," Blues coach Brad Fittler said.
"We had our chances at the death but weren't playing good enough to take those and that's why they're (clean sweeps) hard ... that was their (Queensland's) best game of the series without a doubt."
Valentine Holmes left the game at halftime with a shoulder injury while Junior Paulo was placed on report after the full-time scuffle.
Australian Associated Press