MELBOURNE - One brave decision, one moment of madness and Queensland are one win away from extending State of Origin's longest dynasty to a seventh consecutive year after an 18-10 win in Wednesday night's series opener.
The Blues were left lamenting a pair of crucial calls before a packed Etihad Stadium, with Michael Jennings harshly sin-binned for a wild haymaker and video referee Sean Hampstead controversially awarding a Greg Inglis match-winner seven minutes from time.
With Queensland clinging to a 12-10 lead, Hampstead ruled Blues' hooker Robbie Farah had deliberately kicked the ball out of Inglis' hands as he attempted to score.
Blues' skipper Paul Gallen ù who had a running battle with the referees all night ù expressed his bemusement as the Maroons pulled out by more than a converted try.
"How the hell is that a try?" he asked.
"This is ridiculous, where this is getting."
NSW coach Ricky Stuart, though, conceded it was a fair try despite its ungainliness.
But he was less impressed with the actions of Jennings or the referees following the 22nd minute all-in scuffle that changed the course of the game after the Blues had taken an early 4-0 lead via Akuila Uate.
"It was a silly action (by Jennings)," Stuart said, the incident costing Jennings a grade-one contrary conduct charge that will result in him missing one game even with an early guilty plea.
"Am I disappointed about the fight? No, I just wish there was more people involved in it.
"It was six or seven (Queenslanders) onto one at one stage and Jenno ran in about ninth. They didn't just pop up out of the ground."
Darius Boyd scored a double ù his opener coming with the Blues reduced to 12-men, with Jennings ù dropped from his club side Penrith because of alleged attitude issues ù off the field.
"This is your first Origin ù it's different you know," Gallen told referee Matt Cecchin as he voiced his disgust at the decision.
Boyd scored his second just before the break - on the back of some Johnathan Thurston brilliance and a poor Uate read in defence, but it didn't take the Blues long to get back into the match with Jennings going some way to making up for his binning when he crossed three minutes after the restart.
NSW made a timid decision to go for a long-range penalty goal to level the scores soon after, but Todd Carney's attempt from the 40-metre line sailed wide.
There was another near miss as a loafing Sam Thaiday just grounded the ball before a flying Brett Stewart, the Blues failing to get close again as the Maroons triumphed with Inglis' late four-pointer, for him to become Origin's greatest try-scorer at just 25 with his 13th try.