The high hopes of Hobart seemed the most distant of memories as the international cricket season drew to a close.
The euphoria of New Zealand's first test victory on Australian soil since 1985 had long since been supplanted by an acceptance that South Africa were by far the better side in the eagerly-awaited three-test series.
Yet the backs-to-the-wall final day at the Basin Reserve, with Kane Williamson leading the heroics after captain Ross Taylor was sidelined with a broken forearm, offered the hope that better may, indeed, be around the corner.
It would be wrong to view Hobart as the most misleading of false dawns. Coach John Wright has undoubtedly made progress towards creating a more robust and more resistant unit, and there is the promise of a good crop of young players on the horizon.
The problem for Wright this summer was that the search for quick fixes meant plucking players from relative obscurity. Unsurprisingly, this proved fraught.
For every Dean Brownlie and Doug Bracewell, there was a Rob Nichol and Brent Arnel.
Most of all, however, New Zealand simply came up against a formidable South African team playing at the peak of their powers. The Proteas' tests in England this winter will be compelling viewing.
New Zealand, for their part, will tour the West Indies from late June. That will offer a more realistic gauge of the success of Wright's more demanding regime, and the country's place in international cricket. It also has to confirm that further progress has been made.