One down, four to go.
Relief would have been the overriding emotion as the Breakers tonight earned the victory they needed to keep alive their faint playoff hopes, barely taming the Townsville Crocs at Vector Arena.
The nervy win was the defending champions' first of 2016, snapping a six-game losing streak and seeing them hang onto the coattails of the fourth-placed 36ers ahead of next week's pivotal showdown.
The Breakers (12-12) will head to Adelaide (13-10) on Wednesday with nothing less than another triumph acceptable. Defeat would see Dean Vickerman's three-year reign as coach conclude outside of the Australian NBL playoffs.
But, after experiencing nothing but defeats for the past month, the Kiwi club at least begun the steady process of rebuilding a shattered psyche before they head back across the Tasman.
"After some losses like we've had, there's just a little edge off your confidence," said coach Dean Vickerman. "We showed that a little bit tonight but we got through that one, we'll keep building and move on to Adelaide."
Improvements must be made ahead of the trip to South Australia. The Breakers never displayed the dominance of defending champs but, more importantly, they did manage to close out a narrow victory, although hearts were firmly in mouths as the Crocs capitalised on yet more missed free throws to pull within a possession in the final 10 seconds.
"Any win right now is a good win for us," Vickerman said. "We built a solid lead but there were a number of things that happened that didn't help us close that out. But we held our nerve and we're really happy to get the win."
The win never threatened to come in comprehensive fashion but the Breakers' prized defence was near its best, especially as the home side broke a deadlock early in the final period, and the offence was good enough to account for one of the league's strugglers.
Tom Abercrombie led the way with a game-high 22 points on the night he overtook Kirk Penney to become the club's all-time leading scorer, while Charles Jackson's double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds provided some much-needed production off the bench.
Corey Webster (12 points) was again kept relatively quiet after a week in which he admitted his personal form had been below average, but his teammates picked up the Breakers' most consistent threat to complete the first step of an improbable revival.
That revival looked like kicking off early as the Breakers streaked in front in the first. But, with the two teams sitting inside the competition's bottom three in scoring, both sides suffered from a wayward radar as the hosts ended a low-scoring half with their noses in front.
Webster sprang to life to help his side enjoy ascendancy to start the third but, try as they might, the Breakers struggled to advance their advantage to a secure margin and the Crocs closed the gap to leave the teams level heading to the last.
While that would have created some angst among Vickerman's men after last weekend's collapse against Cairns, the desperation was at last harnessed in appropriate fashion as the Breakers ground out a slump-busting win.
Breakers 77 (Abercrombie 22, Charles Jackson 15, Cedric Jackson 13)
Crocs 74 (Jett 20, Steindl 16, Kay 12)