Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer scored a golden point try in extra time to defend New Zealand 16-12 in a dramatic rugby league Tri-Nations final.
The try capped a phenomenal year for Lockyer, who also captained the Brisbane Broncos to a Grand Final victory and Queensland to a State of Origin series win and also collected the Golden Boot award.
"Obviously, that's what you want to do, you want to win everything but you never set out to do that, you just take out each week as they come," Lockyer said.
"It's a pretty special way to end a special year for me, it'll probably sink in more tomorrow."
Thurston said of the match-winning try, "I was just looking outside and inside, seeing who was coming up.
"I saw the skipper inside and as soon as I threw the ball to him I knew he was over."
The end of an era
The heartbreaking defeat for the Kiwis also brought down the representative careers of veteran trio Ruben Wiki, Nigel Vagana and Stacey Jones, three of the finest players ever to don the black and white jersey.
"I've had a great ride and I'm going out a winner," said Wiki, the most capped international with 54 Tests for the Kiwis.
"(Tonight) wasn't about me it was about rugby league in general ... international rugby league is getting better and better every year."
The Kiwis lost three players, Steve Matai, Manu Vatuvei and Motu Tony, with injuries through the match and came close to winning the match when Brent Webb’s field came agonisingly close to sailing between the uprights.
The Kangaroos led 10-6 at halftime after a 10th-minute try to winger Brent Tate and three Lockyer penalty goals, but the Kiwis levelled six minutes after the resumption with a beautifully-worked try to centre Iosia Soliola.
Jones and Vagana did the leadup work through the use of two decoy runners for Soliola to carry over Thurston's tackle to score.
Thurston kicked a penalty goal to put the Kangaroos in front again four minutes later before Jones equalised with a 71st-minute penalty.
In the frenetic final moments both teams had shots at drop goals before the final went to golden point extra time.
Thurston sliced through from halfway and had Lockyer ranging up on his inside to go on and finish off for the clinching try under the crossbar.
Australia once again got the better of the Kiwis in the dying minutes after scoring two tries to win 20-15 earlier in the tournament.