The All Blacks needed an 80th-minute drop goal from fly-half Daniel Carter to seal the victory and the three-match series with a game to spare.
Ireland, who have not beaten New Zealand in 26 matches stretching back 107 years, had threatened to snap that drought at Rugby League Park.
Drawing level at 19-19 and with the opportunity to take the lead after New Zealand full-back Israel Dagg was yellow carded, fly-half Jonathan Sexton's long-range penalty goal dropped just short.
The All Blacks were then able to maintain their composure, win a defensive scrum penalty and march down field to set up Carter's opportunity.
"It's difficult to assess when it's raw," O'Driscoll, sporting a massive welt above his right eye, said.
"It's difficult when you have fought your way back to be level on the board and they were a man down for the last seven or eight minutes, it's difficult right now to find the positives but I'm sure when we look back at the video there will be plenty of them.
"The fact we've got one more go next week is definitely a positive. We don't have to finish our season on that (result). We give ourselves another opportunity in Hamilton."
O'Driscoll's team had dragged their way back into the match after the All Blacks had seemingly grabbed the momentum when scrum-half Aaron Smith scored his first Test try shortly after half-time.
Several handling errors and penalties at the breakdown, however, created opportunities for Ireland as Sexton slotted home three penalties to level the score at 19-19.
"When you're feeling confident in your play and you're one man up there's no reason to just look for penalties," O'Driscoll said when asked what the feeling was on the field when they levelled the score.
"We just needed to keep playing positive football. We were looking for tries and line-breaks but you look back on that and we will probably rue not playing a little bit smarter.
"The decision on the scrum (inside the All Blacks own half) was a big one and gave them field position and the opportunity for the pop at goal and they got the second one."
The final Test is in Hamilton next Saturday.