Leon MacDonald's raspy, relieved voice said everything about the Blues' nervy progression to the Super Rugby final.
Emotions were high as the Blues booked their right to host the Crusaders in Saturday's finale at Eden Park.
Perched in the south stand coaching box, MacDonald watched helplessly as his Blues team were held scoreless in the second half after conceding two yellow cards to invite the Brumbies to launch their comeback from a 20-7 deficit to within one point.
The Blues held on at the death, as they have on multiple occasions this season, this time thanks to an Ofa Tuungafasi charge-down on Noah Lolesio, to continue their 15-match unbeaten run but it was a near thing.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was adamant referee Ben O'Keeffe should have awarded his side a potentially-match winning penalty for Luke Reimer contesting the breakdown.
MacDonald acknowledged the touch-and-go nature of the tense 20-19 victory but welcomed the chance to challenge the Crusaders.
"It was like theatre, with them lining up a drop goal on fulltime I was thinking 'surely not'," MacDonald said. "When your tighthead gets up off the line, and he makes the tackle, it's huge. Those are the big moments you hope to grab. We knew it was going to be a fight.
"It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the coaches in the box, and probably the fans. In finals rugby one point is enough."
MacDonald praised the Blues' willingness to have a crack on attack, particularly in the first half, despite the difficult conditions but lamented second-half errors – Kurt Eklund's yellow card for a tip tackle top of mind – that changed the complexion of the contest.
"We put pressure on ourselves by making discipline errors. We've got to be better there. Two yellow cards played into their hands and they took them."
Beauden Barrett, assuming the captaincy for a second week following Dalton Papalii's appendicitis, stepped up to lead the Blues alongside standout performances from lock Tom Robinson and fellow playmaker Stephen Perofeta, the latter destined to be named in the All Blacks for the first time on Monday.
Desperate goal-line defence repelled the Brumbies several times with Barrett, Perofeta and Finlay Christie pulling off try-saving tackles but the Blues could not prevent two maul tries as the Brumbies stormed back.
Barrett's influence was telling. Without him, the Blues would not be where they are this season.
"He was amazing," MacDonald said. "His running game, he was kicking off both feet, his short and long passes, kicks in the corner. He was brilliant. When he's playing with that sort of confidence everyone around him grows as well. It wasn't a night for the backs but we played with good endeavour and he was a big part of that."
Glancing ahead to the final MacDonald knows the Blues must significantly improve to claim their first fully-fledged Super Rugby title since 2003.
While the Blues defeated the Crusaders 27-23 in Christchurch earlier this year, the final is a clean slate.
MacDonald, the former Crusaders fullback and assistant coach to Scott Robertson before moving to Auckland, had twice watched the Crusaders resolute 20-7 semifinal win against the Chiefs, noting the locals made over 200 tackles.
"This is their bread and butter. They love finals rugby. This is our second final in two years and we're at home so we're excited too. There's everything to play for so you couldn't script it any better.
"We have to play as well as we know we can, as well as we did in the first half. We need to be massive defensively, disciplined, the stuff that wins you finals.
"You can't take your foot off the throat, you can't relax, and that was a good lesson for us. One error turned the momentum of the game and just like that we went from being the dominant team to one who was being dominated.
"The last game was a cracker. Hopefully the weather plays its part because you've got two teams who love to use the ball and use it well. If we can fill the stadium up and it's anything like the last game it's going to be one hell of an event.
"In my time at the Crusaders we loved to come here and play the Blues at Eden Park and I know the boys in the Blues here have a similar feeling around the Crusaders. There will be a little bit of feeling, emotion and two good teams are going to slog it out."
Frustrated Brumbies coach McKellar could not tip a winner for the final but made a plea to officials to adopt some much-needed common sense when it comes to ruling on accidental head collisions.
"It'll be a great game, a really good contest. It will come down to a toss of a coin. I just hope it's not decided off the back of a card," McKellar said. "Let the 46 footballers sort it out. There's no grubs or dirty players among those boys. They'll play and contest hard so I hope it's a good spectacle and the players decide the outcome."