After a nervy opening, both sides settled down to produced a quality display of 15-man rugby, with the lead changing regularly during the seven-try thriller. The Wallabies led 17-7 just after halftime, before skipper Richie McCaw's brilliance at the breakdown began to reap dividends and the All Blacks scored 21 unanswered points to take the match by the scruff of its neck.
A series of phases in the 15th minute brought the All Blacks to within striking range of the Australian line and quick hands gave one of the players of the tournament, full-back Mils Muliaina, the space to dive over.
Carter converted, but a Matt Giteau penalty goal and a last-gasp try to full-back Adam Ashley-Cooper gave the Wallabies a 10-7 lead at the break.
A well-taken try to lock James Horwill - his second against the All Blacks - extended the home side's lead five minutes into the second spell, and Giteau's conversion gave New Zealand a 10-point mountain to climb.
The visitors looked rattled, but a spilled up-and-under put them on the front foot and they hit back immediately when prop Tony Woodcock galloped over in the corner. Carter's sideline conversion silenced the gold section of Suncorp Stadium and it was game-on.
Wallaby scrum-half Sam Cordingley came close to extending the lead, but was penalised for holding on, inches from the try-line, and New Zealand coach Graham Henry rolled the dice by sending on four replacements after only 50 minutes.
The All Blacks regained the lead just after the hour mark when No 8 Rodney So'oialo and winger Sitiveni Sivivatu produced stunning bursts before a slip pass to Piri Weepu gave the replacement scrum-half a crucial score.
Carter was again on target from out wide, and the brilliant fly-half smashed the game wide open when he jinked through three attempted tackles to score under the posts and give the All Blacks an 11-point lead with as many minutes left on the clock.
Wallaby centre Ryan Cross crashed over late on, and the home side were on the attack as the clock ticked down, but New Zealand held on to bag the silverware.
Scorers: Australia - Tries: A Ashley-Cooper, J Horwill, R Cross. Pen: M Giteau. Cons: M Giteau 3.
New Zealand - Tries: M Muliaina, T Woodcock, P Weepu, D Carter. Cons: D Carter 4.