The Northern Mystics have held on for a 55-53 win over the Central Pulse in their trans-Tasman netball game in Auckland.
The Mystics once again built up an impressive lead - ahead nine goals at halftime - even with two of their most experienced players sitting in the stands nursing injuries. But yet again, they could not maintain the intensity for the full 60 minutes as the Pulse charged back to within one with only a handful of minutes left on the clock.
A spectacular mid-air intercept by Sulu Fitzpatrick - in her 50th appearance - ensured the Mystics were two goals in front at the final whistle, lifting them to second place on the New Zealand Conference ladder.
The Mystics had to call on players from their Beko Netball League Northern side to fill gaps in the line-up left by injured Kayla Cullen and Temalisi Fakahokotau.
Both coming off big losses in the previous round, it was tit for tat in the first quarter, as both teams committed the same dose of intensity and precision, reflected in a goal-for-goal score.
Katrina Grant, back in her favoured goal keep role, was quick out of the blocks, effectively making a menace of herself from the first whistle, and stealing three intercepts in the first quarter.
At the other end, Anna Harrison was equally painful in the side of the Pulse shooters, snatching two intercepts for the Mystics. Ameliaranne Wells had to call on all of her patience to work the ball in to her fellow shooter Maia Wilson, who had an outstanding game under the hoop (33 from 36).
A run of five consecutive goals just before the break, helped by the swift sure hands of Tuivaiti, finally broke the deadlock and put the Mystics up 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Searching for more consistency at their defensive end, the Pulse brought Phoenix Karaka on at goal defence. But the Mystics carried on, scoring four more goals before the Pulse replied.
Tuivaiti cleverly created her own space under the hoop and showed the benefit of her understanding with Maria Tutaia to neatly gather in the ball and contribute 23 perfect shots at goal in the first half. With Harrison continuing to interrupt the Pulse's flow, assisted by young goal defence Holly Fowler, the Mystics built a 34-25 advantage at halftime.
The Pulse - who hadn't won a third quarter this season - returned to the court a different team, treasuring possession and hammering on the defensive pressure, soon closing the gap to five. The Mystics snapped back into focus and held a 44-40 lead going into the final quarter.
Buoyed by winning the quarter by five, the Pulse continued to close to within one in the dying minutes - Grant and Karaka stepping up their game in the heat. But Fitzpatrick's intercept gave the Mystics the slight buffer they needed to hold on for their second victory of the season.
Mystics Shooting Statistics:
Cathrine Tuivaiti 34/36 (96%)
Maria Tutaia 21/29 (72%)
Pulse Shooting Statistics:
Maia Wilson 34/37 (92%)
Ameliaranne Wells 19/24 (79%)