The Black Caps needed to produce a world record run chase.
Instead, they were handed one of their heaviest defeats.
Set 468 by Australia to win the first day-night test, the Black Caps were routed for 171 – with their 296-run loss the fifth biggest run-margin of defeat in their test history – and just one run shy of their worst against Australia, set in 1974.
• Rattue: The Black Caps' major problem that has never changed
• As it happened: Black Caps v Australia, day four
• Rate the Black Caps v Australia - and win
• Black Caps star robbed? Fans baffled by Aussie DRS 'shocker'
On a Perth pitch laden with cracks and providing plenty of pace and bounce, and going up against three of the world's best bowlers, neither tallying 468 nor batting for over five sessions was ever even remotely likely.
But, to rebuild confidence for the remaining two tests, if nothing else, the Black Caps batsmen needed to show some application, and get some runs under the belt.
Very few managed to do so, with only a 56-run stand between BJ Watling (40) and Colin de Grandhomme (33) providing any sort of resistance as they slumped to a demoralising defeat.
Now, the Black Caps have to lick their wounds and come back in 10 days for a just-as-daunting task – a Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson knows improvements are required after Australia never let his side into the contest.
"It was challenging from a number of aspects. You're up against a very tough side and they played extremely well. Tactically they were outstanding, batting for a couple of days in that heat then getting a new ball under lights was a pretty smart decision.
"It's important we reflect, don't get too carried away, but make sure we look for those little improvements and re-group a little bit."
Trent Boult should be back to bolster a bowling attack which came out of this clash with credit, having performed well in trying circumstances, but there may be changes elsewhere, with Jeet Raval's spot at the top of the order most in jeopardy.
The truth of his situation was summed up by a brutal sledge from Mitchell Starc.
"Wouldn't wanna ruin it — the last chance of your career," Starc taunted him, balls before dismissing him for just one from 21 balls.
"Christmas is pretty good when you have it off though," he added.
As harsh a comment as it may have been, at this rate playing Raval in the Boxing Day test would be even crueler. The opener hasn't passed 33 since February, and looked completely out of his element once more as a Starc delivery spooned off the shoulder of the bat to Nathan Lyon at point.
However, these were conditions – especially on day four – which most batsmen would have struggled with, and indeed most of them did, including the Australians, who could only muster 217-9 before declaring. Tim Southee (5-69) and Neil Wagner (3-59) did the damage with an array of short balls, taking a rash of wickets as the hosts tumbled from 131-1.
Wagner ended up with the biggest workload in his test career, getting through 60 overs for the match before he finally could walk off the park with seven wickets for the test, while Southee completed his ninth five-wicket bag as he ended with his second-best test match figures, with 9-162.
The Black Caps seamers should go into Boxing Day brimming with confidence, but the batsmen will have less reason to feel positive as Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon ripped them apart.
Lyon claimed the big scalps of Kane Williamson – gloving a ball to short leg – and Tom Latham – trapped lbw – while Starc removed Ross Taylor to reduce the Black Caps to 57-4, and end any chances of a miraculous fightback.
Watling, de Grandhomme and Henry Nicholls (21) offered a brief respite, and hope of forcing a fifth day, but the brilliant bowling trio couldn't be denied, taking the last five wickets for 17 runs as the Black Caps folded to a dire defeat - one that could be a hammer blow for their hopes of further success on this tour.