England head coach Stuart Lancaster accepts the summer tour to New Zealand must be judged on the result of Saturday's final Test with either respectability or failure beckoning.
The All Blacks, chasing a record-equalling 17th successive victory, have built an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and are targeting a whitewash at the Waikato Stadium.
If England defy the odds and topple the world champions, they will return home with pride intact.
But Lancaster also knows that another defeat, whatever the circumstances, will be unacceptable to a squad that arrived in New Zealand with the stated ambition of winning the series.
"The series will be judged ultimately by the scoreline. We desperately want that win and that's why we need to put in a high quality performance," Lancaster said.
"We don't see this third game as any sort of dead rubber whatsoever, it's a hugely important game for us and New Zealand.
"They want to build momentum heading into the Rugby Championship and we want to finish the season strongly. It would be huge to beat the All Blacks away.
"We've been close to doing that in these two games and we want to get that win so that when we play New Zealand at Twickenham in November we're in a strong position."
Reassured by a decisive victory in the second Test, even if the 28-27 scoreline suggests otherwise, All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has lobbed a verbal hand grenade into the England camp.
Hansen claims the tourists are racked with doubt over their tactics after discovering at the Forsyth Barr Stadium that they are unable to match the world champions at a high-tempo game.
"They are in a bit of a quandary really because they took us on in Dunedin playing a game of real pace and worked out they couldn't," Hansen said.
"So what are they going to do now? I've seen Lancaster mention in the paper that maybe they shouldn't play too much rugby down their end, so maybe they're going to kick a wee bit more.
"But they will have a good plan because they are good coaches, so we've just got to make sure we've got a good one to counter it.
"England are a determined bunch so they'll want to put in another performance they can be proud of, so I don't think we've broken their spirit.
"They're a group of people who believe in themselves, so they'll get up again for the last Test."
Hansen does believe Lancaster's replacements strategy is correct, however, after offering support to England's head coach in the face of ongoing criticism from one of his predecessors Sir Clive Woodward.
Woodward insists that substitutes are used too liberally in the modern game and that a player should be selected only if he is able to last the full 80 minutes.
"Well Woodward's allowed his opinion isn't he. When did he coach? The game has changed," Hansen said.
"If he thinks that the bench doesn't make a difference then good on him. Keep telling England to do that."
Lancaster has evoked memories of the first summer tour of his Twickenham reign to inspire a successful end to the series.
"We were in a very similar position in South Africa two years ago," he said.
"We lost the first two Tests, the second one quite narrowly, but dug in for the third and produced a very strong performance.
"That enabled everyone to finish the tour on a positive note and reflect all the hard work they had done that season.
"We know we'll need the full 80-minute performance to beat New Zealand."