South Africa 17 Lions 22
For all the commendable traits embodied in the British and Irish Lions, stirring comebacks have not been a regular part of their modus operandi.
Only once since the year 1900 have they won a series after dropping the first Test, the sole exception coming on the trip to Australia in 1989.
It was on that same tour that, prior to Saturday, the men in red had last won a Test when trailing at half-time.
It is clear, then, just how much was riding on the second forty minutes in Cape Town on Saturday.
Down by nine points after a fairly insipid first-half when discipline failed them and new combinations appeared to be struggling to gel, the momentum of the game, and this series, shifted in the space of the four minutes that opened the second-half.
It was then that the Lions made the most of confusion in the ‘Bok backline to reclaim the ball, that Eben Etzebeth hit Robbie Henshaw high, and that Alun Wyn Jones pointed towards the corner.
In what was then a 12-3 game, the returning skipper’s confidence was key when Luke Cowan-Dickie – just – managed to stretch the ball onto the whitewash after a powerful driving maul.
While still trailing by two, from that moment the game changed. It was the South Africans falling foul of Nic Berry's whistle while the Lions scored a series of decisive victories in the battles of the air.
Crucially too, it was the visitors who got more impact from their bench, the World champions' famed 'bomb squad' most notably defused when Mako Vunipola earned a key scrum penalty.
While South Africa will have come away angered to see two tries chalked off by TMO interventions - and Hamish Watson was fortunate his giving away of a second-half penalty didn't bring a card - the more telling factor in the game was how they faded so markedly as their first major challenge since the World Cup final in Yokohama approaching two years ago progressed.
“From our point of view you win that first one and you know that no matter what happens, you’re going to the last weekend of the series,” said a proud Warren Gatland after what was his fourth Test victory as Lions head coach.
"That keeps everyone engaged and really interested in it.
“It wasn’t just about the 23, this is an incredibly tight group of players. The non-23 did a brilliant job this week in helping that Test 23 prepare. The victory was as much about them and the whole squad as the guys who took the field.”
Of the swing after the turn, Gatland said his only messages were to remind his side they were still very much in the game,
“We normally give the guys some time. We don’t go in with messages straight away. They rehydrate, take some fluids on, give them a bit of time to gather their thoughts and then the forwards and backs will meet as units.
“The message for me was, ‘Look, we are still in this arm-wrestle even though we are down, just keep our composure."
It’s thanks to that refusal to panic that Gatland and his side are 80 minutes away from a bit of history.
South Africa: W Le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F de Klerk; O Nche, B Mbonambi, T Nyakane; E Etzebeth, F Mostert; S Kolisi, PS du Toit, K Smith.
Replacements: F Malherbe (for Nyakane, 40), S Kitschoff (for Nche, 40), M Marx (for Mbonambi, 40), L de Jager (for Mostert, 63), R Elstadt (for Smith, 63), D Willemse (for Le Roux, 66), E Jantjies (for Pollard, 70) H Jantjies (for de Klerk, 74)
British and Irish Lions: S Hogg; A Watson, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, A Price; R Sutherland, L Cowan-Dicke, T Furlong; M Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones; C Lawes, T Curry, J Conan.
Replacements: K Owens (for Cowan-Dickie, 56), M Vunipola (for Sutherland, 56), H Watson (for Curry, 56), C Murray (for Price, 63), O Farrell (for Daly, 65), K Sinckler (for Furlong, 66), L Williams (for van der Merwe, 70), T Beirne (for Lawes, 72)
Referee: N Berry (AUS)
Star man: Maro Itoje (B&I)