England defeated New Zealand 20-14 in the decisive Test to clinch the three-game series at a sold-out DW Stadium.
Elliott Whitehead scored two tries and captain Sean O’Loughlin one as Steve McNamara’s men bounced back from defeat in the second Test a week ago.
Wigan scrum-half Matty Smith was named Man of the Match after a superb display, while debutant Jermaine McGillvary also impressed as England won the series against the top ranked team in the world.
The Kiwis rallied late on, scoring two tries in the final seven minutes to ensure a nervy climax to an entertaining match.
Gareth Widdop gave the hosts the lead through a penalty early on before Peta Hiku had a try chalked off by video referee Gerard Sutton because of knock on in the greasy, wet conditions in the North-West.
Canberra-bound back rower Whitehead forced his way over the Kiwi’s line after 25 minutes and Widdop’s goal put England 8-0 ahead.
But five minutes from the break Jason Nightingale crossed in the corner with a sensational finish, diving over Zak Hardaker to ground the ball and Isaac Luke’s conversion meant the visitors trailed by only two points at the break.
As the rain began to intensify both sides battled for territory and posession, with neither willing to give an inch.
However, Whitehead held off the Kiwi defence to power over the line for his second try of the game just past the hour mark. Crucially, Widdop maintained his 100% record with the boot to reestablish an eight-point buffer with 15 minutes left to play.
New Zealand began to look drained of energy following Whitehead’s try and the home side took their next chance to all but seal the series thanks to O’Loughlin’s touch down. The skipper forced his way over next to the posts and the extras were duly added by Widdop, giving England a 20-6 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
But Stephen Kearney’s men rallied, and thanks to another piece of brilliance from Nightingale – flicking the ball back inside from the touchline from behind his back – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scored to halt any premature England celebrations.
And the scoring didn’t end there, Jordan Kahu went over in the left corner bringing New Zealand to within six points with three minutes still remaining.
England held out though to claim a first series victory against either New Zealand or Australia since 2007 – when Great Britain defeated the Kiwis 3-0.
Skipper O’Loughlin, playing on his home turf in Wigan, was named Man of the Series.