The Kiwis' No 1 ranking is looking a bit shaky.
Tonight they were dismantled by a ruthless Kangaroos outfit for the second time this year, going down 26-6 in Perth.
Australia scored five tries and could have had three or four more but for some inaccurate execution and gritty New Zealand defence.
The Kiwis had little cohesion on attack and any pressure they mounted was inevitably undone by an error or a poor option.
New Zealand were hanging on for much of this match - not quite fingernails down the cliff stuff, but not far away. They defended fairly well, apart from one first-half misread, but the levee was going to break at some stage because they were constantly under pressure due to their misfiring offence.
Recalled prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves did nothing to dampen the questions over his ability at test level with a quiet performance, while Shaun Kenny-Dowall had one of his worst games in a Kiwis jersey.
New Zealand's fifth tackle options were a mess, as Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Issac Luke replicated their disorganised Warriors output in that area. Johnson's radar was off for most of the game, and other fifth-tackle plays ended with forward passes, knock-ons and, at one stage, Kevin Proctor being left as the kicking option. Johnson is at his best when he is unpredictable, but his team-mates need to be on the same page.
And the Kiwis overdid the set plays, especially in the first 30 minutes. There's little point in fancy moves behind the line when you have the best set of tackle busters in the game.
"We don't need to go around them, go through them" urged Leuluai, as the Kiwis walked back after Kevin Proctor's first-half try.
Unfortunately it wasn't heeded, epitomised by a Jesse Bromwich knock-on after a complicated switch play inside the Kangaroos 20 midway through the second half.
Australia were also better in second-phase play, with Trent Merrin and Matt Scott leading the way with offloads. The Kiwis bent the line, as expected, but didn't have the support runners anticipating the busts, illustrated by Martin Taupau's brilliant second-half break which saw no profit.
The Kiwis made an underwhelming start to the match. There was the usual fire and brimstone in the haka, but the Australians started with much more clarity. Waerea-Hargreaves' much-hyped return didn't start well - his first touch was a knock-on, his second an ugly coathanger on Thurston that in another era would have merited a sin binning at least.
The Kangaroos opened the scoring in the ninth minute, and it was a soft try at this level. Darius Boyd strode over untouched after the Kiwis got their defensive reads all wrong. Their second try five minutes later was a touch fortunate, as a Jordan Kahu 'falcon' rebounded straight to Greg Inglis, but it was also reward for enterprise, as Valentine Holmes broke away down the left flank.
It was looking ominous, but the Kiwis stemmed the tide with Proctor's try in the 22nd minute, with their first opportunity of the match, after Johnson took the ball to the line.
The Kiwis had sustained periods of pressure but no dividends, while only a brilliant Leuluai tackle on Matt Gillett stopped a third first-half try.
Like they did in the first half, the Kiwis left their passion in the sheds after the break, with Holmes sprinting away in the 45th minute after another unfortunate Kenny-Dowall error out of his own territory. Only committed defence stopped the Australian from further points, before Inglis grabbed his second in dubious fashion in the 69th minute as he appeared to obstruct Kahu. Boyd Cordner added a fifth three minutes from time, leaving plenty of homework for David Kidwell and company ahead of the Four Nations.
Australia 26 (D Boyd, G Inglis 2, V Holmes, B Cordner tries; J Thurston 3 goals)
New Zealand 6 (K Proctor try; I Luke goal).