Not everything went to script but Johnathan Thurston lived up to his star billing to inspire North Queensland's 16-14 win over Melbourne in their blockbuster NRL trial.
After a first half try, Thurston stepped up again in his testimonial with good mate Cameron Smith to set up three-try winger Kyle Feldt's match-winning four-pointer with just 18 seconds left to light up the miserable conditions.
The stage was set for a night to remember at Suncorp Stadium with the NRL 2017 grand final re-match doubling as a testimonial celebrating the careers of the Cowboys playmaker and evergreen Storm skipper.
But the early signs indicated it may be one to forget with the match kicking off in torrential rain and both the Cowboys (Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett) and Melbourne (Jahrome Hughes) suffering injuries.
And at one stage Queensland skipper Smith was even cheekily booed by the drenched pro-Cowboys crowd on the Maroons' hallowed turf as he lined up a sideline conversion, earning an ironic laugh from the veteran.
However Thurston ensured they went home with a smile after his touch of class near the stroke of fulltime.
With the clock ticking down, he delivered a sublime banana kick for towering winger Feldt to defy the greasy conditions and complete his hat-trick.
"I got lucky there," a modest Thurston said.
"But this is a special match (with Smith). We have known each other since we were 10.
"Now we are best mates, our families are very close, it means a lot to me."
Thurston received the accolades as North Queensland earned a measure of redemption after their 2017 grand final thrashing from Melbourne.
Yet Smith was still honoured at a special post-match ceremony with the Harry Sunderland Medal as 2017 best Kangaroos representative player, finally completing his award collection for the year.
The NRL premiership winner also claimed his second Dally M Medal, his second Golden Boot Award and raised the Rugby League World Cup trophy for Australia in a big 2017.
But Smith believed Thurston would have to be considered the world's No.1 player after just two games back from an eight month shoulder injury.
#CamandJT game... what a bloody ripper for 2 great blokes & 2 of the games greats 🏈👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼— Lincoln Lewis (@linc_lewis) February 23, 2018
"He's No.1 easily. He's the complete footballer," he said.
"He's been out of the game for eight months and he's just toying with the defence."
Feldt was dangerous all night, delivering one of the highlights by grabbing a Michael Morgan kick one handed despite the wet to score in the 33rd minute.
But the biggest roar in the first half went to Thurston after the Cowboys co-captain made the most of a Christian Welch slip and fooled Harry Grant with a dummy to score in the 39th minute and give the Cowboys an 8-4 halftime lead.
The Cowboys lost fullback Coote (hamstring) and centre Linnett (pectoral) while Melbourne fullback Hughes (shoulder) lasted 22 minutes.
Australian Associated Press