Queensland sent retiring legend Billy Slater out a winner and denied New South Wales a State of Origin series clean sweep with a gutsy 18-12 come-from-behind game three win in Brisbane tonight.
The Maroons had only pride to play for but were able to rally from 12-8 down at halftime to claim a morale-boosting three-tries-to-two victory in front of their home crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland dominated the first half and led 8-0 after right wing Valentine Holmes ran in their first try, before New South Wales stormed back with two tries in the last three minutes of the first half to right wing Tom Trbojevic and fullback James Tedesco, helping them steal a four-point halftime lead.
The home side hit back 10 minutes into the second half with Holmes collecting his second four-pointer to level the scores before halfback Daly Cherry-Evans celebrated his return from three years in representative exile with their third try, giving them a six-point lead inside the final quarter.
The result saw Queensland bounce back after losing the opening two games in Melbourne and Sydney and give them hope for the future as they look to rebuild following the retirements of Slater, former captain Cameron Smith, halfback Cooper Cronk and five-eighth Jonathan Thurston.
The victory provided Slater with a happy ending in his first outing as Queensland captain in his 31st and final Origin appearance since his debut in 2004, with the 35-year-old fullback turning in a typically inspirational performance.
A knock-on from Slater saw Queensland denied a try in the early stages as the home side began dominating territory to keep New South Wales pinned down near their own line.
A break downfield by hooker Damien Cook gave the Blues attacking position and a try down the left flank loomed for the visitors before Holmes intercepted a Tedesco pass to race 95 metres to score and convert his own try after 11 minutes.
Courageous defence saw New South Wales repel wave after wave of Queensland attack before Blues five-eighth James Maloney was sinbinned for running Slater off a bouncing ball ingoal, with Holmes kicking the penalty to make it 8-0 after 31 minutes.
The Blues found themselves under more pressure but clawed their way back into the contest after Trbojevic plucked Maroons playmaker Cameron Munster's long pass out of the air and went the length of the field, before Tedesco weaved through poor goal line defence for their second with Cleary converting both tries for an unlikely four-point advantage.
Holmes' second brought Queensland back to life while the tiring Blues missed chances to extend their lead before Munster split the defence to combine with Gavin Cooper to send Cherry-Evans in for the match-winner in the 57th minute.
The Blues kept attacking and looked capable of overturning things but basic errors and desperate Queensland defence saw them unable to add to their score.
Queensland 18 (Valentine Holmes 2, Daly Cherry-Evans tries, Holmes 2 cons, 1 pen)
New South Wales 12 (Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco tries, Nathan Cleary 2 cons)