The Kiwis lived up to their reputation as the most hot and cold, or black and white, of sides as they roared into an 18-point lead. The world champions fought back to lead in the second half, but it was New Zealand, marshalled by veteran scrum-half Stacey Jones, who found the inspiration to see them home.
It was a great day for the new Kiwi coach, Brian McClennan (son of the former St Helens coach, Mike), as his badly depleted team shocked Australia in the opening minutes at the Telstra Stadium. Toopi, not even certain of his Test place, struck twice in the first 11 minutes, with Jones prominent in the build-up both times. The Kiwi fans in the crowd could scarcely believe it when their outstanding full-back, Brent Webb, went past Andrew Johns for their third try.
They were denied a fourth when the English referee, Steve Ganson, failed to spot an offside tackle on Jake Webster and then neglected to go to the video referee to check whether he had got over the line anyway.
It looked like being an expensive decision for the Kiwis when Australia scored four tries in nine minutes in the purplest of patches before half-time. Brent Tate started it with a wonderful 90-metre effort, Johns darted over for another and Mark Gasnier somehow squeezed in at the corner for the third.
When Tate took Johns' basketball dunk for his second, it looked inevitable that the Kangaroos would go on with the job in the second half. They looked like doing just that when they took the lead for the first time, the debutant winger, Matt King, capitalising when Manu Vatuvei spilled Johns' kick.
The Aussies converted just one of those five tries, leaving them vulnerable to a Kiwi resurgence, who, led from the front by the Warrington-bound Paul Rauhihi, regained their lead through tries from Nathan Cayless and Nigel Vagana.
Three goals from Jones, a reluctant kicker, made it a 10-point lead for New Zealand, but they were under pressure again when the dangerous Gasnier swept through for his second with seven minutes to play.
As Australia tried to build an attack to threaten the exhausted Kiwis' slender four-point lead, Ben Kennedy suffered the worst moment of his long career, knocking on while under no pressure to concede precious possession. New Zealand found the energy to move the ball wide, Roy Asotasi's lofted pass finding Toopi, who managed to touch down just inside the corner flag, with Jones putting over his seventh goal in seven attempts via the upright.
The Kiwis, victors in Australia for the first time since 1991, are now assured of a full house for the return match in Auckland next Friday. They will be without their hooker, Lance Hohaia, who was carried off with a suspected broken leg, but they had shown a spirit that transcended the potential problem of already having a dozen of their better players missing.
The Kiwis will also have given the Great Britain coach, Brian Noble, much to think about between now and the meeting of the two sides at Loftus Road on 29 October that opens the British leg of the tournament.