WITH five minutes remaining in Sunday's's Country-City clash at Dubbo’s Apex Oval there seemed to be only one result possible.
Country led 26-10 and had nullified any threat posed by the big names in the City line-up.
But with nothing to lose the City side began to throw the ball around and an incredible comeback began when offload after offload resulted in Andrew Fifita finding room in the corner to score.
Daniel Tupou tip-toed down the sideline to cross for his second of the afternoon shortly after and when Dylan Walker made a 50-metre break from the resulting kick-off, anything was possible.
The clock ran down to zero but City refused to give in, throwing the ball around wildly before Will Hopate sliced in from out wide, beat three defenders and dived across the line to cut the lead to two points.
Adam Reynolds converted the try to level the scores and no one could argue a draw wasn't a worthy result.
Both sides had patches where they dominated in a match that will give NSW coach Laurie Daley plenty to ponder in the lead up to State of Origin.
"If you're looking for Origin attitude or players that will put their hand up, fight for each other and hang in, then that was a good example of it," Country coach Trent Barrett said after the match.
"Bit disappointing at the end but I thought we deserved to win, so bit deflating but really happy with the boys."
Country had got out to a 16-10 lead at the break thanks to David Mead scoring a double and Gold Coast Titans teammate Kevin Gordon crossing once.
The battle between five-eighths Jarrod Mullen and Josh Reynolds was the main talking point in the lead up and both impressed early with Reynolds scoring City's first try and Mullen's 40/20 leading to Mead's second.
In the second half man-of-the-match Jamal Idris came to the fore with some bruisng hits in defence before leaping above Jorge Taufua to score and extend the lead to 22-10.
Shortly after Idris pulled off one of the other big moments in the match when he barged over the top of Dylan Walker and threw a one-handed pass for winger James McManus to score in the corner.
Tyrone Roberts added the extras before City's miraculous comeback saw the match finish 26 points apiece, with Country retaining the Country-City Shield after winning last year at Coffs Harbour.
"We had a disappointing start so we kept talking about the result, put your hand up to get the result and with 10 minutes to go they didn't lose faith," City coach Brad Fittler said.
With 9627 fans braving the cold conditions to watch some of the game's best players in action, both squads were impressed by their time in Dubbo.
"It was awesome, a good crowd, especially with the weather," Barrett said.
"This morning it was pouring rain but they really got out and supported us all, we've had a terrific week so Dubbo has done a good job.”
"Nothing was too hard for anyone," City captain Ryan Hoffman said of the Dubbo community.
"And that's what we greatly appreciate, they pretty much bent over backwards for us which was fantastic and makes us realise how important this fixture is for country NSW."
COUNTRY 26 (David Mead 2, Kevin Gordon, Jamal Idris, James McManus tries; Tyrone Roberts 3 goals) drew with CITY 26 (Anthony Tupou 2, Josh Reynolds, Andrew Fifita, Will Hopoate tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals)