A handful of overs away from completing an unremarkable match, with retirement looming ever closer, Neil Wagner has inspired New Zealand to an unfathomable victory.
The 36-year-old this afternoon delivered one of his greatest spells as the Black Caps completed one of their greatest triumphs, somehow stunning England to win by a solitary run at the Basin Reserve.
With three key wickets and two crucial catches in the space of little more than one hour, a jubilant Wagner thrilled a joyous Wellington crowd to create a barely believable slice of history.
His legside dismissal of No 11 James Anderson came with the tourists requiring one meagre run to potentially produce the third tied match in almost 150 years of test cricket.
Instead, while squaring the series, New Zealand became the fourth side to claim victory after being asked to follow-on.
It was previously a once-in-a-century occurrence, achieved by England in 1894 and 1981 before India famously thrashed Australia in 2001. This win - given the context and stakes, the twists and surprises - now ranks among the sport’s most memorable.
Before Wagner ended a spell of 9.2 overs by snaring his 3-38, the match - and series - had looked lost at many junctures throughout five wondrous days in Wellington.
Brendon McCullum’s test-cricket revolution seemed heading inexorably to an 11th win in 12 matches, while the Black Caps were staring at defeat at home for the first time in 11 test series.
That appeared the only possibility when the home side began their second innings 226 runs in arrears. An England success was less certain, but still likely, when they started the final morning facing a deficit of 210 with nine wickets remaining.
And after New Zealand had quickened the pulse and created the prospect of history by seizing four wickets inside the opening hour, McCullum’s men were still on the verge of victory when 57 runs short and five wickets in hand.
Ben Stokes and Joe Root were both established at the crease, the skipper and his predecessor forming what could have been a series-clinching stand of 121. Root was nearing a second century in the match, atoning for his shocking run out of player-of-the-series Harry Brook, who departed without facing a ball to leave the tourists on 80-5.
But Wagner, as is his wont, then began banging in the ball short - and the test was upturned in furious fashion.
The seamer had struggled for impact this month. After a chastening second innings in the first test at Bay Oval - where a 267-run conquest put England in control of the series - Wagner’s time in the side might have been running low.
But in the space of his opening two overs in the spell, Wagner removed both Stokes and Root to set his side on a wild path to a place in the record books.
He further contributed by taking a clutch catch as Matt Henry removed Stuart Broad, leaving England down to their last two wickets and still needing a suddenly monumental 43.
The tourists began turning down singles, Ben Foakes assuming total responsibility. Wagner almost put an end to that, but the wicketkeeper’s pull sailed agonisingly over the head of a backtracking Michael Bracewell on the boundary.
England were now within 30, and Foakes soon crunched consecutive boundaries off Wagner to reduce that pivotal figure to 15.
It was a single digit when the tea break was postponed, the dramatic denouement not to be interrupted. A review of pure desperation was never going to be enough to dismiss an obdurate Jack Leach, but the deficit still stood at seven when Foakes lost his head - and his wicket.
Wagner’s incredible afternoon extended to a tumbling fine-leg catch when Foakes swiped at a Tim Southee bouncer. His reward was a huge hug from his captain - and yet another turn at the bowling crease.
Anderson, fortunate to survive when a top edge fell safe, then offered Wagner reward of a different kind, crunching him through the covers with one free swing that dropped the margin to a single run.
The field was swiftly drawn in; the probability enhanced for a tied test. But Wagner had the energy to make one final intervention and Tom Blundell had the application to take a fine catch from Anderson’s feathered edge.
A customarily reserved New Zealand team mobbed their wicketkeeper in ecstasy. Anderson, knowing he had made contact, opted against a review.
Victory complete, history made. One run.