NEW South Wales set the scene for a monumental series decider at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium next month with a highly-contentious 26-18 win in front of the biggest crowd in State of Origin history at the MCG.
Before more than 91,000 fans, many of them regular AFL followers, the Blues showed they had improved considerably from last year's breakthrough series' win to answer every challenge a gallant Queensland side, renowned for its never-say-die character, threw at them.
The Maroons however had every right to question a no-try call against centre Greg Inglis in the 68th minute when the South Sydney captain grabbed a loose ball and sprinted 80m for what referee Gerard Sutton judged to be his 17th Origin try.
However the video referees thought otherwise, ruling Matt Scott touched the ball after NSW five-eighth Mitchell Pearce appeared to lose the ball in a Michael Morgan tackle.
The Blues had suffered their own disappointment a few minutes earlier when a try was disallowed after a pass was ruled forward.
NSW, which led 14-10 at half time, found itself 16-14 down five minutes into the restart when stand-in halfback Daly Cherry-Evans found replacement forward Matt Gillett who cut back inside for this first Origin try.
Queensland opted to take a penalty midway through the second half rather than push for a try, extending the lead to 18-14.
The four points was never going to be enough with 20 minutes still to play against a desperate Blues outfit which needed to win to keep the series alive.
NSW made Queensland pay for not backing their attack, with prop Aaron Woods scoring a soft try two minutes later, before halfback Trent Hodkinson put fullback Josh Dugan over to seal the win in the 70th minute.
Blues skipper Paul Gallen showed tremendous courage to finish the game after being forced off the field and into the dressing sheds in the 18th minute for an injection for a suspected rib injury
"I'm really proud of the boys. We stuck to our game plan and hung in," Gallen said after the win.
"Nate (Myles) got me early. It didn't hurt then, but five or 10 minutes later I felt something pop."
Queensland, already installed clear favourites to win game three, has a very good recent record in series deciders, and also playing in front of sellout Suncorp Stadium crowds.
The Maroons won deciders in 2011, 2012 and 2013 during their record eight-series winning streak.
Queensland will be hoping Cooper Cronk is back for Origin III with Daly Cherry-Evans again having an average game, although he was forced to do plenty of defence.
The Blues were well served by Dugan, Woods, Ryan Hoffman, Gallen and props James Tamou and Woods, while Michael Jennings had his best Origin game for some time.
For Queensland, no one tried harder than Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith, while Inglis was back to his brilliant best.
FIRST HALF -
1st: Blues prop Aaron Woods earns penalty in first minute and Blues have the early momentum.
Blues in great position. Halfback Trent Hodkinson goes to the line and just short.
3rd: Maroons hooker Cam Smith knocks down ball on opposite Robbie Farah - NSW earns repeat set.
Michael Jennings try for the Blues! Nice James Tamou nice offload and poor miss from Maroons winger Will Chambers.
Jennings too explosive near the line in broken-play situation.
Converted by Hodkinson for 6-0 Blues.
Big Daly Cherry-Evans hit on Hodkinson soon afterwards forces error and gets Queensland right back in the contest.
Justin Hodges knock on though after he slipped with Queensland camped inside Blues 20m zone.
Error-riddle Queensland start with the penalty, missed tackle that led to a try, and Hodges dropped ball.
10th: Woods offside at marker. Qld on the attack.
11th: Matt Scott try for Queensland! Nice work Corey Parker with catch and pass to put him over for 6-all.
19th: Blues skipper Paul Gallen leaves the field. Possible broken rib. To receive needle and hopes to return.
Farah grubber and batted dead - keeps NSW at bay.
Tamou loses ball in good position.
21st: Melee! First one of the game, as anticipated. James Tamou and Billy Slater. Queensland gets a penalty for Blues holding down Greg Inglis.
26th: Blues halfback Mitchell Pearce's cross-field kick a very good one. Josh Morris flies high on the right edge with beautiful overhead mark. Plants it down nicely with his left hand. 12-6 Blues.
30th: Gallen back on after receiving treatment.
33rd: Ryan Hofman hit high by Queensland centre Justin Hodges and leaves field soon afterwards.
Young Blues back-rower Boyd Cordner comes on.
33rd: Greg Inglis try! Queensland at its classic best down its favoured left side in slick play, with Johnathan Thurston passing to Slater, and Slater linking up with Greg Inglis.
Inglis found Boyd, and back to the big centre for fantastic try. Conversion missed by Thurston out wide for Blues to lead 12-10.
38th: Cordner almost through and produces good quick play the ball, after Cherry-Evans penalised for strip with Hodges.
Leads to Trent Merrin earning penalty next tackle. Penalty in front and converted by Hodkinson. 14-10 NSW.
8.26 PM Blues take first points of the game
QUEENSLAND may have won the coin toss but New South Wales has scored the first points of the game.
Less than five minutes in, Michael Jennings broke through the line of maroon and Trent Hodkinson converted the try.
Clash two expected to cause fireworks
TONIGHT'S State of Origin game in Melbourne could erupt with both camps talking tough before the big clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A number of former Origin players from both states are predicting fireworks between NSW and Queensland following some provocative comments made by Blues' skipper Paul Gallen which have upset the Maroons camp.
Under rule changes initiated after Gallen punched Queensland forward Nate Myles twice in the face during last year's interstate series, any player throwing a punch is sent to the sin bin.
The rule could be put to the test in a few hours with the coaches of both sides issuing a "one in, all in" edict to their players.
Bookmakers report a flood of money for NSW who have firmed from $2,70 to $2.20 while Queensland have eased out to $1.65.
Queensland can wrap up their ninth series in 10 years if they back up their 11-10 win in Sydney last month with a win tonight in front of an expected Origin record crowd of around 90,000.
But if the Blues hit back, then they will defend their title at Suncorp Stadium in the series' decider on July 7.