Australia won a scrappy match in Sydney against New Zealand, a result that left the Tri-Nations championship wide open.
The game was littered by errors and infringements and lacked rhythm.
With the teams locked 12-12 at the break something had to give, and so it proved in a second half when Australia upped the tempo and deservedly won.
They made the most of Ali Williams being sent to the sin bin and opened up a narrow lead through a try from Lote Tuqiri which they held to the whistle.
Tuqiri could have finished with a hat-trick but was also held up over the line once in each half.
His touchdown, rounding off a sweeping move, proved the vital score although a late touchline tackle on Doug Howlett was equally valuable.
Australia's defence was stretched to breaking in the final stages, but held firm where New Zealand's had earlier failed.
The work of Tuqiri and the likes of George Smith, a dreadlocked destroyer scavenging for scraps of ball, ensured New Zealand again left Sydney, the scene of their semi-final World Cup defeat, battered and beaten on a day that promised much.
The early exchanges gave little indication of the final outcome.
1. NZ: 9 points (3 games)
2. Aus: 9 points (3 games)
3. SA: 2 points (2 games)
14 Aug: S Africa v N Zealand
21 Aug: S Africa v Australia
New Zealand made a fast start, racing into a lead with a first-minute penalty, and threatened to runaway with the match.
Tana Umaga was a willing accomplice to Carlos Spencer's astute orchestration and Daniel Carter was slotting the points from the boot.
But the triumvirate of midfield maestros soon began to misfire, and by the final whistle only Umaga was still on the pitch.
The green-and-gold-clad masses in the stands had to wait until the 20-minute mark, when they were 9-0 down, before finally seeing some action worthy of the description. It was worth the wait.
Only a last-gasp Kees Meeuws tackle denied Tuqiri and before the half was out Stirling Mortlock also went close.
At times New Zealand's defence was stretched to a thin black line, with Spencer particularly exposed.
Where they had earlier dominated with their dexterity and speed of handling, Australia were now setting the standards.
Their energetic movement made a mockery of New Zealand's newly-employed but poorly-executed rush defence.
Time and again the men in black infringed, much to the consternation of Wallaby captain George Gregan, equalling David Campese's record of 101 caps for his country.
Gregan saw a penalty in front of the posts reversed when he gave referee Jonathan Kaplan a piece of his mind, but before long he got his wish.
Kaplan could have chosen from a host of multiple offenders before finally fingering Williams for 10 minutes in the bin for persistent offside.
Australia made the advantage of their extra man tell.
When the second row returned his side's three-point lead had turned into a five point deficit, Tuqiri's early second-half try the telling factor.
Even the introduction of the mercurial Andrew Mehrtens - at the expense of Spencer - could not help overhaul the difference.
Australia: Latham; Rathbone, Mortlock, Giteau, Tuqiri; Larkham, Gregan (capt); Young, Cannon, Baxter, Harrison, Sharpe, Smith, Waugh, Lyons.
Replacements: Paul, Dunning, Vickerman, Roe, Whitaker, Burke,
New Zealand: Muliaina; Howlett, Umaga (capt), Carter, Rokocoko, Spencer, Marshall; Meeuws, Mealamu, Hayman, Jack, Williams, Gibbes, Holah, Rush.
Replacements: Hore, Somerville, Tuiali'i, Newby, Kelleher, Mehrtens, Tuitupou.