In the end it came down to pudding - a multi-layered chocolate dessert including a component one MasterChef judge described as "the dome of doom".
After two hours spent attempting to replicate award-winning pastry chef Ganesh Khedekar's complicated creation, just one MasterChef contestant was left standing.
That was Tim Read, who earned 76 points over the episode's three challenges, two more than his fellow finalist Leo Fernandez on 74, and was crowned the winner of the show's sixth season.
After his win, Read, a 25-year-old physiotherapist, said he "wasn't expecting that" and paid tribute to the show's 15 other contestants.
"Each and everyone of them has pushed me harder ... I knew I'd have to bring it. (Cooking) is what I love to do - that's never been stronger and I want to chase that dream."
Read had lost the night's first skills challenge, but overtook Fernandez after the second challenge, which saw the pair creating three dishes in two hours: one fine dining, one comfort food and one street food.
It came down to MasterChef's traditionally difficult final challenge, a smoking chocolate creation with multiple components, including a white chocolate ball sitting on a bed of chocolate soil, black garlic ice cream, chantilly cream, smoked chocolate discs, a toasted hazelnut and ganache.
Fernandez earned 22 points out of a possible 30 for his pudding, and was praised for doing a "fantastic job" on the dome of doom. But he was topped by Read with 23 points, with judges saying his dish "tasted slightly better".
Afterwards, Read admitted putting together the "dome of doom" - a hollow white chocolate ball - had been the show's toughest challenge.
"I worked so hard in that final challenge and I put everything out there on the plate ...
The white chocolate did my head in - it looks more like a rugby ball than a sphere."
Even the judges agreed they were "terrified" after seeing the dish but told Read he had earned his win after a "sensational" few months.
"I'm sure your dream to bring food from the field and the ocean to the plate will come to fruition ... you can give up physiotherapy," said judge Al Brown.
Fernandez, a 32-year-old pig farmer from North Canterbury, admitted he didn't want to be a pastry chef after taking part in the challenge.
Read's prizes include a car, a book deal, a contract with My Food Bag, and a trip to Dubai to showcase New Zealand food. He joins previous winners Brett McGregor, Nadia Lim, Chelsea Winter, Aaron Brunet and Karena & Kasey Bird.
* Did the right person win? Post your comments below.