Maitland co-captain Chris Logan lifted himself from a seeming game-ending injury to propel himself across the try line and the Blacks into the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final.
Just moments after the Blacks bench was scrambling to find a replacement for Logan, the outside centre sent the huge contingent of Maitland fans into raptures levelling the scores with his brilliant solo try diving across the line just beside the uprights.
The Blacks were down 24-19 and appeared to be out of ideas and fast running out of time.
Enter Logan. From a scrum near the 22m, Logan ran an angled line back on the inside of replacement fly-half Ryan McCormack and exploded into a hole. He wrong-footed Merewether fly-half Sam Bright and was too quick for breakaways Sam Dart and Jarome Wilson and dived over beside the posts.
McCormack added the extras to snatch a 26-24 triumph and seal a place in the decider for the first time since 2010.
“It’s one of those line when everyone breaks off the side of the scrum and there’s either a hole or there’s not,” Logan said after the game in the change rooms with one ankle wrapped in ice and his other foot immersed in an ice chest.
“You’ve got to pick it and stick it. If it works it comes off like that, if it doesn’t then you get busted.
“Chippy (Ryan McCormack) called it, so I had to run it. It’s more his try than mine I think.”
For much of Saturday, it looked as though it would be Merewether, not Maitland, who would be challenging the Hawks on the final day.
After a slow start, the Greens led 14-12 after 20 minutes and extended it to 21-12 on the half hour.
Maitland halfback Max Stafford darted over from the base of a ruck after a Logan bust in the 35th minute to close the gap to 21-19.
Merewether had the breeze at their back in the second half. As they have done throughout the finals series they plugged away through the forwards, controlling possession and, in turn, the game.
Replacement breakaway Sam Dart went close, spilling the ball inches short in the 63rd minute.
Sam Bright, who spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a repeated infringement, added a penalty tin the 67th minute to stretch the margin to 24-19.
A minute later the Blacks were reduced to 14 men when Nick Davidson was given a yellow card for repeated infringements.
The Blacks needed something special. Carl Manu and Josh McCormack threatened to break the line. But the Greens remained in tact.
Then, up stepped Logan to deliver the match-winner.
Apart from Logan, Michael Howell carted the ball up all day and did a power of work in tight. Turi Uini anchored a dominant scrum and Stafford was a constant menace.
Logan said it was a memorable win but the team’s focus would now switch to the grand final against Hamilton next week.
“It’s a little bit surreal at the moment, but there’s a belief there that that job’s done, but there’s one more to go,” Logan said after the match.
“We’re excited but everyone knows there’s one more job to be done.
“”Last year after that win we probably would have cut loose and thought how good is that.
“But this year everyone knows what we are capable of. It’s good but next week is the win to top all wins.”
“We try and calm ourselves, we play our best footy when we are settled. Under pressure we settle really well and then have that launch.
“When we are on the front foot and we’re razzing each other up we almost overplay things and make mistakes.
“This week will be about controlling that, if we get too far ahead of ourselves we probably went a play early today through excitement.
“If we fix that then we are the best team in the comp in my eyes.”