With their season on the line and facing a double-digit deficit, the Breakers showed just why they can be called defending champions for another week at least.
Level heads and an electric final quarter lifted the Kiwi club to another crucial victory this evening, recovering from a fair share of adversity to edge Cairns at the NSEC.
The Breakers endured one prolonged poor patch that threatened to doom their title defence but emerged with ownership of the fourth and final playoff place with two games to come.
While their spot in the finals is far from guaranteed - a home-and-away tangle with league leaders Melbourne awaits next week - the spirit displayed today would have left coach Dean Vickerman confident of concluding his tenure in the post-season.
That looked unlikely in a 10-minute first-half spell that saw the Breakers run cold at both ends of the floor, falling behind by 12 and unable to prevent shoulders from slumping as memories of a six-game losing streak undoubtedly entered their minds.
But the Breakers haven't built a dynasty by wilting when pressure was applied, locking down on defence against a Taipans side hoping to keep alive their own playoff hopes. And after putting their noses in front by a point at the end of the third, the champs enjoyed a superb final quarter to seize a third straight victory.
"We have a lot of experience in big games and a lot of players who perform well in fourth quarters," said centre Alex Pledger. "We've been in situations like this before where we've had games that we must win, and we've been in playoff-mode for the last three games."
That intensity was abundant in the final 10 minutes, evident in how Mika Vukona battled for rebounds or the way both Cedric and Charles Jackson sparked both the crowd and their side with infectious enthusiasm.
The key men all contributed, with Tom Abercrombie leading all scorers with a steady 19 points and Corey Webster adding 17 more to his standout campaign. Cedric Jackson grabbed a double-double of 15 points and 11 assists while Charles was not too far behind with 10 points and six rebounds.
Most pleasingly, the energy that carried the Breakers to a crucial romp against Adelaide on Wednesday was replicated for much of the encounter - with one notable exception that ended up defining the game.
After taking control from the tip and jumping ahead by nine, the Breakers made errors and lost defensive assignments as Cairns stole in front with a 16-2 run. The opposite end was equally ugly as passes went astray and shots rimmed out, leaving the home side staring at a big deficit.
"When we were 12 down in the second quarter, we got a timeout and showed some composure and started moving the ball better," Vickerman said. "I thought that was a big part of the game - the adjustment we made during that period."
That adjustment helped the champs pull within one at halftime and, after a third period in which the lead constantly changed hands, they led by the same margin heading to the last. Nerves would have been understandable, given the season was on the line, but the Breakers remained cool to leap in front by seven early and never look back.
Breakers 85 (Abercrombie 19, Webster 18, Cedric Jackson 15)
Taipans 74 (Craig 15, Gliddon 13, Worthington 10)