The Central Pulse failed to play their part in New Zealand's quest for an unprecedented one-two finish in the transtasman league, capitulating to the Melbourne Vixens in Porirua last night.
A Pulse win would have placed the Northern Mystics in the box seat to secure the minor premiership heading in to the final round, while also advancing the Magic's hopes of finishing second.
But instead the Vixens snatched the initiative, leapfrogging the two New Zealand sides into the top spot.
With a final round showdown against the lowly Southern Steel in Invercargill, it is unlikely the Melbourne side will relinquish their position from here.
While the star-studded Vixens side were always going to be a tough prospect for the Pulse, the Wellington-based side were disappointing in the final home game of the season. Their execution on attack was woeful, with their feeding in to the shooting circle especially poor.
Pulse captain Katrina Grant was disappointed with the ball they wasted on attack having put the Vixens under pressure at stages in the second half.
"I think we should have got a bit closer than [eight goals], but unfortunately we didn't make the most of our opportunities," said Grant.
Any hopes New Zealand fans had of a Pulse upset disappeared soon after the opening whistle, when the home side failed to match the Vixens' intensity.
After eight minutes, the Pulse had managed just three goals as they struggled to get good service in to their shooters, who were well-contained by England star Geva Mentor and Bianca Chatfield.
Katarina Cooper was the worst offender, the converted defender showing her inexperience at wing attack by turning over the ball on three consecutive possessions.
But things were to get worse for Cooper just before quarter time, with the 26-year-old carried from the court with what looked to be a serious knee injury - quite literally an agonising end to her rookie ANZ season.
Down 18-8 at the first break, the Pulse showed strong resolve after the break, tightening up their through-court defence to secure some good turnover ball and cut their deficit back to six at halftime.