It had the makings to be one of the greatest upsets of the transtasman league, before it became one of the greatest capitulations.
On the back of a season of discontent and an injury list as long as Carla Borrego's arm, the Northern Mystics weren't expected to offer much resistance to the championship-leading Thunderbirds, particularly across the Tasman.
But the bottom of the table Auckland side shocked the hosts with a dominant first half performance, in which the likes of some of the competitions stars in Borrego, Natalie von Bertouch and Sharni Layton were upstaged by virtual unknowns like Jessica Bourke, Erikana Pederson and Bailey Mes.
Playing with the freedom of a side that has nothing to lose, the Mystics produced arguably their best 30-minutes of netball of the season to take a 28-23 lead at halftime in Adelaide tonight.
But when the inevitable second half fight-back came from the Thunderbirds, the Mystics had no answer, falling meekly to the fast-finishing home side. The 64-48 win ensured the Thunderbirds have the minor premiership sewn up with one round remaining.
While the scoreline was probably about what you might expect heading into the match, it was a bitterly disappointing result for the Auckland side given they proved they were so capable of competing in the first half.
Perhaps struggling to regain their momentum after last week's bye, or possibly guilty of complacency heading into a match against the down and out Mystics, the Thunderbirds made some rather amateur attacking errors in the first half, with frequent miscommunications. But it wasn't just silly turnovers letting them down - the Mystics also created plenty of opportunities for themselves on defence, with Kayla Cullen particularly impressive early on.
Feeding on the confidence of their defence end, the Mystics attack were playing with an assuredness we haven't seen from them on Australian soil this year, with Mes once again the stand-out in the shooting circle.
The athletic Mes, who was a shock midcourt selection in the Silver Ferns last season, was a dominant figure in the attack end, with her deceptive movement as well as ability to hold space causing problems for her opponents early on. While the 24-year-old had a quieter second half after the Thunderbirds brought on Kate Shimmin in place of Layton, Mes will have advanced her hopes for a Silver Fern recall at the expense of team mate Cathrine Latu.
After working so hard to maintain a six-goal quartertime lead through the second period, the Mystics inexplicably crumbled in the third quarter when the Thunderbirds turned up the pressure. The hosts quickly set about reducing the deficit, levelling the score at 36-all about five minutes in, and once they got their noses in front they never looked back, crushing the Mystics, who by the fourth quarter had introduced a string of defensive changes and very much looked like their old selves again - with the exception of Latu's making a cameo appearance at goal keep.
In yesterday's earlier game, the Firebirds survived a late scare against the Swifts, edging out the NSW side 52-48 in Brisbane to firm up their hopes of finishing in the top two.