The ANBL finals hopes of the Gold Coast Blaze basketballers have been dealt a crippling blow at the hands of the Wollongong Hawks, suffering an 80-68 loss at the Gold Coast Convention Centre on Friday night.
In the battle between two sides in hot pursuit of a playoff berth, a huge 46-point second half from a hungry Hawks outfit was too much for an ultimately flat Blaze side, with Geordie McLeod's men now one step closer to securing the coveted fourth spot on the ladder.
They were led by Glen Saville's game-high 21 points and a superb double-double from big Larry Davidson (16 points, 12 rebounds), while Gary Ervin proved to be a thorn in the opposition's side as always with 18 points.
For the Blaze, only Adam Gibson (16 points), Ira Clark (14) and Darryl Hudson (10) reached double-figures and were perhaps a little out of touch after spending 16 days without a fixture after dethroning the New Zealand Breakers.
But after leading by as much as 11 points in the first half, Gold Coast must be wondering how the match - and potentially their season - slipped from their control.
The real story was told in the offensive rebounds column, with the Hawks amassing 17 to just five for the hosts - allowing Wollongong 17 second-chance points that ultimately proved decisive.
Wollongong's win tied the season series between the sides at 2-2, but the Hawks take the all-important tie-breaker care of a superior points differential.
The desperate Gold Coast must now win at Perth on Sunday night.
The reigning champion Wildcats welcome the Blaze needing just one more win to guarantee an amazing 25th straight post-season, while the Blaze must win if they're to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, and to take the series.