The Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic scored a crucial 52-47 win over the Central Pulse in Hamilton last night to secure a berth in the New Zealand Conference Finals of the trans-Tasman netball championship.
The match also marked the long-awaited return of the hosts inspirational leader in the Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua.
The Magic needed the win to secure second place on the New Zealand Conference ladder - leaving the Pulse and the Southern Steel now to fight it out for the third and final spot.
It was also a breakthrough moment for Kopua, the Silver Ferns captain having sat out the majority of the season recovering from surgery on a ruptured patella tendon.
She made two appearances during tonight's fierce encounter, for an encouraging total of 30 minutes on court.
Not all is lost for the Pulse, who showed signs of fortitude and flair to be within striking distance for most of the match.
Penetrating defence from Leana de Bruin and Kristiana Manu'a from the get-go ensured the Magic got off to a cracking start - a goal they'd been working on all week.
As the ball flowed through court, wing attack Grace Rasmussen honed her vision and feeding to Jo Harten, who was also immediately on song.
The Pulse weren't far off the Magic's pace, but found it tougher to work the ball smoothly into Jodi Brown and Ameliaranne Wells, who were often forced to take their shots from further out, and trailed 13-9 at the first break.
Up 28-23 at halftime, the Magic reverted back to their starting defence line-up, with Kopua back on the bench - having made a successful return to frontline netball.
They also made a change in their shooting end, with Ellen Halpenny coming on for Paseka.
It wasn't until the last five minutes of the quarter that either side stamped their authority - and it was the Pulse who were in control.
They made the most of Magic's mistakes, under fierce pressure in the midcourt, and sneaked within one just before the final break.
The Magic held on to a 37-35 advantage entering the last quarter, and stretched their lead back out to five.
The Pulse weren't prepared to give up, but the distance to the Magic was just out of their reach, the final score 52-47 in favour of the hosts.