The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have missed out on the ANZ Premiership playoffs in agonising fashion, falling barely short of their lofty target against the Northern Stars tonight.
The Magic needed to beat the Stars by 15 goals to sneak into the third and final playoff place but, after flirting with that number in the final quarter in Tauranga, ended up 13-goal victors.
The Stars' stubbornness proved to be a huge favour for their nearest neighbours, with the Northern Mystics left to celebrate the Magic's misfortune and look ahead to Sunday afternoon's preliminary final against the Central Pulse.
Left sweating on that spot after collapsing to defeat against the Mainland Tactix last Sunday, the Mystics will take some confidence into this weekend's do-or-die clash, having beaten the Pulse by 11 goals when the teams last met at the end of May.
As for the Magic, they will be left to wonder what might have been. The home side made the perfect start to tonight's improbable quest, shooting almost flawlessly in the opening quarter to seize an early five-goal advantage.
The Magic closed the first quarter strongly, scoring seven of the last 10 goals, and they continued that run in the second to quickly increase their lead to 10 goals. But the Stars soon reversed their slide and trimmed the deficit to seven by halftime, leaving the Magic with some work to do.
That work began well, capitalising on their opponents' increased turnover count in the third to see the lead swell to 12 heading into the final quarter. And the home side soon reached their magic number early in the fourth.
But the Stars refused to let the Magic relax and, with the lead at 14 when the clock ticked into the final minute, Leana de Bruin snaffled a turnover to crush her former side's hopes.