The Northern Mystics are within a whisker of the ANZ Premiership playoffs after earning a vital 59-58 victory over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
A 7-0 third quarter run proved pivotal to send the Mystics into second on the ladder, one point ahead of the Central Pulse, who have a game in hand, and two ahead of the Magic.
With two points for a win, the Mystics merely need to beat the last-placed Mainland Tactix in their final game, while a loss would also suffice as long as the Magic don't thrash the Northern Stars.
The Magic put in a much better display than their recent showings, but have now lost six of their last seven games. As a result, their playoff hopes look dashed; requiring a Tactix victory coupled with a big win over the Stars, or needing the Pulse to lose both their remaining games against the Stars and the Southern Steel.
Both teams were coming off games the day before, and the Magic looked better coming out of the gates at Trusts Arena. Their midcourters were pushing and pulling in tandem to stretch the Mystics defence, opening holes for clean feeds to their accurate shooting duo.
The Magic's movement gave them an early four goal lead, as their shooters connected on their first 14 shots. That was as big as the lead would get in the first half, with the Mystics battling back to level proceedings by the halftime whistle.
It was a physical, largely well executed contest, with mistakes pounced upon and the battle for the ball causing several committed collisions. Magic stalwart Casey Kopua and Mystics upstart Michaela Sokolich-Beatson were constant presences defensively, while Sam Sinclair and Elisapeta Toeava had a superb battle.
The Mystics were having slightly more trouble breaking down the Magic defence from centre passes, but were potent striking on the counter attack, creating several goals from turnovers and earning an important disparity in attempts at goal.
They required all of that counter-attacking prowess after falling into a six goal deficit in the third quarter, after the Magic ramped up the defensive intensity. However, a 7-0 run proved decisive for the Mystics, led by some long-distance bombs by Maria Tutaia and a slew of deflections from Sokolich-Beatson.
A one goal lead with a quarter remaining quickly extended to four in the final quarter, and despite a late flurry the Magic's hopes of victory - and likely a spot in the playoffs - were cut short.