New Waratahs coach Michael Cheika felt his team cracked under pressure as Queensland snuffed out their stirring comeback to claim a gripping Super Rugby grudge match 25-17.
The Waratahs gave up 17 points in the opening 16 minutes but equalised at 17-17 midway through the second half to hold the momentum in an entertaining Suncorp Stadium clash.
However, it was the fitter and hungrier Reds who finished stronger to retain the Bob Templeton Cup in front of 35,801 fans.
Tireless flanker Ed Quirk was the hero as he barged past four defenders in a 35m run to set up a sensational match-winning try to stand-in captain Ben Tapuai, the centre's second of the night, with six minutes left.
Israel Folau scored on his Super Rugby debut to spark the Waratahs' fightback but it was otherwise a deflating start for the code-hopper who had the ball jolted free three times by big tackles.
Reds winger Dom Shipperley also ran over the top of the lanky fullback for the first try.
In his first Super Rugby match in charge, Cheika felt NSW showed good potential but bemoaned their inability to close out the game - their major downfall in 2012 when they lost eight games by less than a converted try.
The 17-3 halftime scoreline was a true reflection of proceedings as the Reds - with boom youngster Chris Feauai-Sautia starring - looked flash while their arch-rivals paid for a litany of bumbling errors.