A star turn by the pride of the south Ben Smith was the tonic for the All Blacks as they overcame another spirited English team in Dunedin tonight.
The All Blacks scored three second half tries in a 28-27 win to break the hearts of the tourists, who had fought their way to a four point lead at halftime.
Smith was just superb throughout his long-awaited chance to wear the No 15 jersey for the All Blacks in front of 28,470 appreciative fans under the Dunedin roof.
It was the sort of match-winning performance the All Blacks badly needed in a game where their improvements from Eden Park were small rather than spectacular.
Most of those gains were in the second half where the All Blacks were a lot better at holding onto possession and their finishing was also more clinical.
It was obvious Aaron Cruden was still looking to find his touch and he was pulled with half an hour left, ironically just after a perfectly timed pass to Julian Savea which saw Ben Smith finish off an 80m movement.
That try saw the All Blacks take the lead for the first time and they increased their advantage after a long run down the right hand touch by Aaron Smith, which eventually led to a Savea try after offloads by Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino.
Under increasing pressure the English were slammed with a yellow card to Owen Farrell and the All Blacks quickly rattled on 10 points, including a try to Ma'a Nonu.
England struck back through fullback Mike Brown despite some confusion over whether he'd actually grounded the ball to cut the deficit to eight points inside the last 10 minutes.
The All Blacks managed to close out the game and wrap up the series with the Hamilton test still to play, but only after Chris Ashton scored on fulltime to get the English within one point.
England took a deserved lead into halftime, but without the heroics of local boy Smith the gap would have been even greater.
With both teams getting a little hysterical on attack, a stone-cold drop by Cory Jane presented England wing Manu Tuilagi with a 70m run to the line.
The only thing between him and glory was the man they call Ghost, and it was the Highlander who came up with something almost supernatural as he lowered the giant Tuilagi and then stripped the ball from him like a hungry kid hunting toheroa.
Cruden banged over a penalty on halftime to cut the deficit to 10-6 at the break.
Earlier, the All Blacks were repeat offenders at ruck time and an early warning by referee Jaco Peyper forced them to take a back seat as England ran into and over the advantage line.
After Farrell opened the scoring with a handy penalty two minutes into the game, winger Marland Yarde scored the opening try after a Joe Launchbury charge down got the English onto the front foot.
Halfback Danny Care appeared to have blown the opportunity when he went to a blindside with no white jerseys, but eventually Yarde was able to single out Cruden in the defensive line.
The All Blacks had no shortage of attacking chances after eventually getting themselves into the game, but some glaring handling errors and an inability to hang onto the ball in contact relieved the pressure regularly for an English defence which was happy to live just over the offside line.
All Blacks 28 (Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Ma'a Nonu tries; Aaron Cruden 2 pen, con, Beauden Barrett pen, con) England 27 (Marland Yarde, Mike Brown, Chris Ashton tries; Owen Farrell 2 pen, 3 con) HT: 6-10.
Should Todd Blackadder stay on as Crusaders coach?Related story: Coach Todd Blackadder's job at Crusaders safe