A last minute rally has helped the Robinhood Stars to a potentially season-saving 63-58 bonus point ANZ Premiership loss to the MG Mystics in Auckland.
The crucial bonus point means the Trident Homes Tactix will need to beat the Mystics by at least 12 goals tomorrow to overtake the Stars into third spot on the competition ladder and reach Sunday's elimination final against the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse.
The atmosphere around the court was fever pitch - it felt like the finals series had come early. Both teams entered the game with a steely determination to compete.
Nerves may have got the better of the Stars early as some cheap turnovers at the attacking end allowed the Mystics a chance to build a lead and they did just that - up by as many as six goals midway through the first quarter.
The Stars took a breath and began to play some slick netball, as the teams traded goals. The defensive pairing of Elle Temu and Kelera Nawai-Caucau contested every ball and made sure the Mystics shooters knew goals weren't going to come cheap.
The Stars enjoyed a controlled end to the quarter, finishing down 18-13.
The Stars pushed hard in the second period, looking to upset the flow of the Mystics and constant pressure was eventually rewarded with some valuable turnover ball, as they made seven gains in the quarter.
Frustratingly, the Stars couldn't convert the turnovers into two goal runs often enough which enabled the Mystics to keep a decent buffer.
Momentum had swung in the Stars favour however and they went into the half-time break behind 33-28, but buoyed by knowing if they stayed persistent then opportunities would present themselves.
The Stars worked tirelessly in the second half as they threw everything at the Mystics in a bid to break into the deficit.
The Stars won ball and managed to turn it into goals as they cut the Mystics' lead to four goals, but the pressure began to show as they tried to score quick goals and the Mystics latched on, making the Stars pay, with shooter Grace Nweke imposing herself under the hoop and the Mystics taking a seven goal advantage into the final quarter.
Spurred on by the raucous home crowd, the Stars were now giving everything to sneak the bonus point, but knew they had to stay composed so the game didn't go away from them.
The Stars held their heads with the ball and Maia Wilson and Amorangi Malesala kept the goals ticking over, as the defence searched for an all-important turnover.
Collective gasps were heard around the arena as the Mystics forced a turnover of their own with just over three minutes remaining and the ensuing goals suddenly have them Mystics a 10 goal lead.
Despite being knocked down to the canvas, the Stars refused to give up and dug deeper than they've had to all season, amazingly forcing two turnovers in quick succession and cutting the deficit to five goals with the last shot of the game, causing a number of relieved embraces across the court, as the Mystics finished victorious 63-58.