Previous World Cups haven't been kind to Dan Carter but his 112th and final appearance in an All Blacks jersey proved to be the sweetest moment of a brilliant career.
Regarded as the greatest player to never play in a World Cup final after injury ruled him out of New Zealand's drought-breaking success in Auckland four years ago, Saturday's Twickenham showdown against Australia was Carter's do-or-die moment.
He rose to the challenge in style, masterminding the 34-17 win with a man-of-the match display that yielded 19 points from his trusty left boot - including a momentum-shifting 40-metre field goal that curtailed a second-half Wallabies fightback that saw them rally from 21-3 down to reduce the deficit to 21-17.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hailed Carter and talismanic skipper Richie McCaw as the two greatest players produced by New Zealand, who became the first nation to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on three occasions in front of 80,125 people at the home of English rugby.
"Richie is the best All Black we have ever had and Dan is a close second," Hansen said.
"The only thing that separates them is Richie has played 148 matches at flanker, which is unheard of.
"You put your body on the line every time you go there. The challenge for the other guys now is to try and become as great as him and Dan."
Carter was in danger of missing the World Cup squad earlier this year after an indifferent Super Rugby campaign for the Crusaders and said bowing out on a high was the greatest feeling in a career that has produced a world record 1,598 points.
"This win is right up there with everything I've done in my career," Carter said.
"It is the ultimate achievement. It has been an amazing career and to finish like this is hard to believe.
"This victory means a lot - it was a dark place four years ago and I've had to work extremely hard to be here today.
"I'm proud of the boys and what they have achieved. Becoming the first team to retain the trophy shows how special this side is."
While Carter insisted that he was definitely walking from the international game at the age of 33, McCaw was less forthcoming about his future plans despite speculation he would also quit.
"I still don't want to think about it," McCaw said.
"I am going to enjoy today. How could you get enough of this?
"We will worry about that after today. I just want to enjoy having played a wonderful World Cup final here with a great bunch of men."
The 34-year-old said the success over the Wallabies was more satisfying than the nailbiting 8-7 win on home soil against France in 2011.
"It is a different feel to 2011 when the final was tighter, and it was a massive relief four years ago," he said.
"This time it was an opportunity that we really wanted to take and rather than a huge sense of relief, it was a sense of satisfaction at having got the job done.
"I feel pretty warm inside and proud and I'm going to spend the next couple of days enjoying the company of these men.
"We said four years ago after the last one that we'll get on the road again and with this being the end goal, playing at Twickenham in a World Cup final to try and do something no one else has done."