In the end, it was all about the result.
The performance wasn't the most accomplished the women's Black Sticks have put up since coach Mark Hager took over three-and-a-half years ago.
But the 0-0 draw against world No 3 Germany at the London Olympics has propelled New Zealand women's hockey into uncharted territory - a spot in the last four and a shot at a medal on the sport's biggest stage.
Hager has been there twice as a player and skippered his native Australia to men's bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games. But he took time to compose himself after the final whistle, saying he was "getting a little emotional" over what his charges had achieved.
"I'm happy with the result, but not so happy with the way we played," he said. "In the end, as I said to the girls, it doesn't matter how you win or draw to get to the semifinals. If it's ugly, you still make it."
He was particularly pleased for the quartet of skipper Kayla Sharland, Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson and Gemma Flynn, survivors from the failed Beijing Games campaign, when the Black Sticks lost all six matches to finish 12th and last.
Germany, ranked three places above New Zealand, needed to win by three goals to stay in medal contention. They had history on their side, having only once lost to New Zealand in a major tournament - the playoff for seventh at the 1990 World Cup - and beating them 5-1 in the final of a pre-Olympic tournament last month.
Germany chased the goals they needed, but found Black Sticks keeper Bianca Russell in superb form, as she made a swag of saves.
New Zealand started the better and almost got on the board in the very first minute. Anita Punt showed typical speed to get to the baseline, but neither Katie Glynn nor Charlotte Harrison could make good contact to her cross.
Glynn was then denied by a fine save by German keeper Yvonne Frank.
From there, Germany started to dominate and twice got the ball into the net, only to be denied both times by the video umpire.
Two minutes from halftime, Maike Stoeckel was adamant she got the faintest touch to a free hit fired into the circle. But the replay was inconclusive and the decision went the Black Sticks' way.
In the second half, from one of six penalty corners, Julia Mueller slammed a reverse stick strike home. But the video umpire ruled the penalty corner sequence hadn't finished and the shot was too high.
New Zealand struggled to hold on to possession, but did create opportunities. The best of the half came from one of their own penalty corners, when Sharland was left unmarked, but couldn't beat Frank.
The maths was so complicated that half the New Zealand women's hockey team were holding out for a draw, while Sharland was urging her team to keep pressing for a late winner.
Sharland says she had no idea when the final whistle blew that the draw was enough to get them into the Olympic medal play-offs.
Moments earlier, she had run towards to Anita Punt to urge her to get the ball and mount an attack on goal.
After it was all over, when Hager came on to the field, she quizzed him as to why the Black Sticks had sat back over the last five minutes.
"He goes `because we just needed a draw', and I said `what do you mean?'," Sharland said. "So half of them were saying `hold in the pocket' and I was saying `go for goal'.
"It was a bit confusing, but it's really exciting to get through. I'm still pinching myself. I still can't believe it."
A narrow loss wouldn't have extinguished New Zealand hopes, but they would've had a 13-hour wait for the result between world champions Argentina and Australia to confirm whether they were still alive.
Instead, they could start enjoying their achievement, before refocusing for their semifinal on Wednesday.
Hager said the coaching staff didn't tell the players the permutations before the match.
"We just said 'if we lose by three, we're out', but they hung in."