Replacement first five-eighths Stephen Brett landed a penalty kick after the fulltime hooter to secure a 22-all draw with the Western Force in Perth on Sunday morning.
Trailing 22-12 with three minutes remaining, the Blues mounted a spirited comeback as captain Keven Mealamu crashed over the try line to score.
And with time up on the clock and down by three points, the Blues managed to earn a penalty as the match came to a thrilling climax.
But captain Mealamu turned down the opportunity to go for the win and instead settled for the three pointer as Stephen Brett calmly slotted the ball between the posts to score an unlikely draw and break the hearts of the 15,931 fans that descended on nib Stadium.
It was a match the Force will surely feel was stolen from their grasp as they looked by far the most convincing team on the night. After consecutive defeats to the Reds and Sharks, the injury ravaged Force defended stoically and ran the ball back at the Blues with venom.
Conversely the Blues looked lethargic and seemed to lack any real cohesion, with simple errors and misdirected passes stifling any attacking opportunities that came their way.
After three weeks on tour and a trip to South Africa, fatigue and jet lag could have been prominent factors in the Blues’ lacklustre performance, but whatever it was they will need to rectify it immediately ahead of their match against the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday night.
After landing eight kicks from eight against the Lions last week, Luke McAlister was unable to find his range early on as he missed two relatively straight forward kicks at goal within the first five minutes.
But his opposite number James O’Connor, who produced a man-of-the-match performance against the Blues, certainly had his radar on as he nailed his first two attempts to give the Force a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes.
In actuality the Blues were lucky to be down by just six points as number eight Ben McCalman took off from the base of the scrum and made light work of Chris Lowrey before sending Richard Brown away down the sideline, with only some superb scrambling defence keeping the Force from scoring.
But Lowrey soon atoned for missing his tackle on McCalman as he made a strong run up-field to earn the Blues a penalty.
This time McAlister was on song as he narrowed the deficit with a penalty kick, and after Daniel Braid did a brilliant job in earning a penalty three minutes later, McAlister got back into his regular kicking pattern to draw the scores level with a superb three pointer.
The Blues began to look dangerous with ball in hand as Jared Payne in particular caused the Western Force defence plenty of problems, but too many unforced errors and knock-ons halted the visitors’ progress on the scoreboard.
McAlister and O’Connor both traded penalties before the Force began to gain the ascendancy in the closing stages of the first half.
The fleet footed O’Connor looked to have set up the opening try of the game as he chipped over the Blues’ defensive line, regathered and then jinked past a defender on his way to the line before being dragged down just short.
The ball was then passed to lock Sam Wykes who barged his way over the line, but after multiple reviews by the TMO the Force were denied the try as the ball was adjudged to be held up.
But moments later the Force’s patience in attack finally paid off, as after numerous phases the home side finally wore down the Blues defence and the ball was spun through the hands as Nick Cummins dotted down on halftime to give the Force a 16-9 lead.
The injection of All Blacks Alby Mathewson and John Afoa added some spark to the Blues in the second stanza as McAlister got the visitors off to a good start with a penalty kick after 48 minutes.
But once again the Blues were unable to control the ball for long enough periods of time as they gifted the Force too much possession and territory.
O’Connor looked to have put the result beyond doubt as he landed two consecutive penalty kicks to give the Force a 22-12 lead after 61 minutes.
But the Blues, who fought back in their two previous victories against the Crusaders and Lions, finally began to string some phases together and wear down the Force defence.
After hammering the goal line, captain Keven Mealamu eventually managed to burrow over and score with three minutes remaining.
Rene Ranger threatened to pull off a remarkable upset as he charged down the sideline in the dying stages of the match, but when he was bundled into touch by Alfi Mafi it appeared the Force would finish off the match with a win.
But the Blues were able to earn a crucial penalty after the siren sounded as Brett stepped up and nailed the penalty attempt to clinch the draw.
The Blues return to Auckland on Monday before facing the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday night.