It was Queensland’s seventh consecutive Origin series win and the fiercely-fought encounter was only decided when Cronk landed the long-range drop goal to separate the two sides.
The Maroons have not been beaten in the Australian interstate series since 2005 and once again they proved the superior team. Queensland, coached by Test great Mal Meninga, have now won 15 of the 21 encounters since the Blues’ last series win.
It was a fitting farewell for veteran prop Petero Civoniceva, who ended his 33rd and final game for Queensland.
“The boys were just great. They took it to us the whole 80, we had to play some good footy to get out of it. I’m very proud,” man-of-the-match Queensland’s stand-off Johnathan Thurston said.
“The Blues are a great side, that’s why there’s only one point difference.”
The Blues levelled at 20-20 in the 70th minute when hooker Robbie Farah’s high kick to the right corner was plucked from the air by centre Josh Morris, who out-leapt Darius Boyd to score before Todd Carney made the sideline conversion.
But minutes later Cronk edged Queensland back in front with his 40-metre game-breaking one-pointer.
NSW began the decider strongly and led 8-0 after a try by recalled winger Brett Morris in the 13th minute.
The Maroons worked their way back into the contest with Boyd scoring wide off a Thurston cut-out pass in the 19th minute.
Queensland then skipped away to a 16-8 halftime lead with further tries to Thurston and Justin Hodges.
NSW fought back to within two points when fullback Brett Stewart raced through to ground Farah’s grubber kick just inside the dead-ball line.
Two Thurston penalty goals then pushed the Maroons out to a 20-14 lead before the Blues’ dramatic winning finish.
Queensland won the opening game 18-10 in Melbourne, before NSW levelled the series 16-12 in Sydney last month to take it to a decider.
Meninga stretched his Origin coaching record to 15-5 with the triumph and more wins than his legendary predecessors Arthur Beetson and Wayne Bennett, both with 11 wins.