WESTPAC STADIUM, Wellington -- And breathe. After 80 minutes packed with penalties, talking points and few attacking thrills, the British & Irish Lions levelled the series under the rain in Wellington.
It looked like they had shot themselves in the foot through their own idiotic ill-discipline, but then they suddenly remembered they are a wonderful group of players and through will-power, inner-belief and superb leadership from Sam Warburton, they beat the All Blacks 24-21 in Wellington.
As the Maro Itoje chant -- sung to the beats of the White Stripes -- rained down from the stands, the Lions needed one final accurate lineout throw, they missed it. But they re-gathered the ball and then came the clearance kick down the near touchline and the Lions swarmed on the loose ball like ants on a discarded sweet. Two contacts were taken, and then Conor Murray with the laziest of kicks sent the game to Auckland with the series equal. Bloody hell.
This was more than just a win. It proved why the Lions are so important in the modern game, it showcased why they must be protected and nurtured. Warburton's grin said it all; he had managed something so few individuals have done. They had beaten the All Blacks on their own turf. It showed why people care about this thrown-together bunch of players who for so much of the game looked like they had squandered the biggest of opportunities through their own ill-discipline.
The All Blacks played for 55 minutes with 14 men. The red card for Sonny Bill Williams for his mindless hit on Anthony Watson was correct. There is no debate over that. But Mako Vunipola could have easily seen the same colour in the second half for his ill-judged clear out on Beauden Barrett. It was yellow, he was extremely fortunate.
They finished with 13 penalties conceded; it was rugby's version of discipline stupidity but as the rain hammered down on this corner of Wellington, the men in red were bouncing, hugging loved ones, swigging the last dregs of beer from crumpled plastic glasses and flights were hastily being booked for Auckland, rather than Heathrow.
The Lions support were magnificent. This was the game where they found their voice; every dropped ball, pass, scrum was cheered with gusto. On their support alone, they deserved a victory. The atmosphere in Wellington was wonderful all day. Bars, streets and restaurants were packed, the Lions' chant seeping out of every corner of this wonderful city.
Itoje has been taken to their hearts, but it was Alun Wyn Jones who was magnificent for the Lions while Murray and Jonathan Sexton worked so well in tandem at half-back. Owen Farrell steered the ship well from inside centre -- he had balls of steel to kick the conversion for Murray's score -- and then there were the likes of Taulupe Faletau, up there with the best No. 8s in the world, and Sean O'Brien who got through an immense of work.
Jonathan Davies was also magnificent at outside centre while the wingers Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly did exactly what was needed in weather better suited to ducks than rugby players.
The All Blacks never really got going, but though they hinted at coming to life, the numerical disadvantage just proved to be too much of an obstacle. They will be hurting tonight, as ask 99 out of 100 folk you meet on the street and they would have predicted a New Zealand win.
Instead we now go to Auckland. The Lions will need to address their discipline, it is just killing them. But as the passes stuck, and they found another gear, they also grew self-belief. The All Blacks simply do not lose at home, it's just not the done thing, but the Lions have now smashed through that mental barrier.
Next up is the Eden Park force field to break down. It was 1994 when the All Blacks last lost there. The Lions couldn't do it... could they? Stranger things have happened.