A 29-15 win for New Zealand over South Africa in Auckland was marred by a controversial red card shown to Bismarck du Plessis.
The Springbok hooker, the visitors' first try scorer at Eden Park, was shown two yellow cards within the opening 45 minutes by referee Romain Poite.
The first yellow shown to du Plessis, for a tackle on Dan Carter deemed to be illegal by Poite despite du Plessis' apparent use of the arms, came back to haunt him in the second half after he lead with the forearm going into a tackle with Liam Messam.
With New Zealand already ahead after tries from Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick, the result was never in doubt as one of the most enthralling Test matches in 2013 had the contest cruelly sucked out of it.
Any concern over the choice of Poite as the official was negated by Heyneke Meyer earlier in the week, but how he must have felt watching on from the coaches box must have been near to his worst nightmare.
The All Blacks regardless were as clinical as ever, in the end running in four tries as they capitalised on their numerical advantage.
Read had taken over as captain from the injured Richie McCaw and ran in two tries either side of half-time, with lock Retallick and flanker Sam Cane also going over.
A thunderous first scrum from the Springboks illustrated how the visitors could attack New Zealand at the set-piece, but after Etzebeth failed to take the lineout from the resulting penalty, South Africa paid a price.
New Zealand worked their way upfield and forced Willie Le Roux to run the ball into touch five metres from his own line.
The following lineout was clinical; a series of forward drives resulting in the captain Read burrowing his way over for the first score. MornÃ© Steyn's first penalty after an infringement by Retallick then had the Springboks on the board.
Bismarck du Plessis's work at the breakdown has become somewhat of a speciality and the hooker was at it twice in the opening quarter, producing two turnovers of which the second lead to Steyn's second attempt at goal - forcing the distance and as a result paying the price with his accuracy to leave the score at 7-3.
The monster, but legal tackle by Bismarck on Carter then lit a firework under what was an already enthralling contest.
Poite's interpretation that the du Plessis' tackle was illegal, and his consequent sin-binning, was a controversial blow on the chin for the Springboks and the wrong decision, but there was worse news for New Zealand as Carter was forced to leave the field.
The All Blacks, renowned for finishing their chances, made the advantage count. Beauden Barrett's break sucked in the Springbok forwards and left a space behind which, after Conrad Smith pounced on a loose ball, was capitalised on by Retallick for New Zealand's second try.
Nearly adrift at 14-3, the Springboks desperately needed a response and it came through who else but Bismarck du Plessis. A rampaging maul near to the All Blacks line ended with the hooker at the bottom of the pile.
Barrett's first penalty shortly after though stemmed any shift in momentum as the All Blacks kept a seven-point lead to close out the first half.
The second began as controversially as the opening 40 minutes finished. A second yellow card for du Plessis after his forearm on Messam meant the Springboks were down to 14 men for the remainder of the match.
Read's second try shortly afterwards gave New Zealand an unsurmountable lead at 24-10, with the Springboks having to carry out an extra man's work.
The New Zealand skipper Read then had a chance for a hat-trick but the ball just wouldn't bounce in his favour - a moment where the All Blacks run of luck rarely went against them.
An increasingly weary Springbok defence succumbed again when Cane drove over from close-range, adding further gloss to a growing scoreline, although New Zealand lost Read to the bin following a sustained period of Springbok pressure.
Nonu joined his captain on the sidelines for a shoulder charge on Jean de Villiers that in all likelihood will be punished further after an examination by the citing commissioner.
The growing pressure on the All Blacks did yield a second try for the Springboks after Pat Lambie athletically finished off Steyn's cross-field kick as they chased a losing bonus point, but time was against them.
Instead of delivering what might have been an immensely narrow finish with the number one world ranking at stake, we were left wondering what might have been had Poite's influence on the match not been so telling.
New Zealand were the winners, but their success in the wake of the controversy will barely be discussed.
Man of the Match: Some actual rugby did happen and so credit to Brodie Retallick, who enjoyed his best game in an All Blacks jersey so far.
Moment of the Match: No guesses here. The first yellow card shown to Bismarck du Plessis transformed the game for both sides as Carter was forced off, and meant du Plessis had to be sent off in the second half.
Villain of the Match: All eyes on you, Monsieur Romain Poite.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Read 2, Retallick, Cane
Cons: Carter, Barrett 2
Yellow Cards: Read, Nonu
For South Africa:
Tries: B. du Plessis, Lambie
Red Card: B. du Plessis
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements:16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 GurthrÃ¶ Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 JuandrÃ© Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: JÃ©rÃ´me GarcÃ¨s (France), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Assessor: Lyndon Bray
by Ben Coles