The Northern Mystics emerged 49-45 winners from a high-quality round eight ANZ Championship encounter against the Vixens in Melbourne today.
The Melbourne-based side had looked impressive in going untroubled through the first six weeks of the competition before falling to their first defeat of the year last round against the NSW Swifts.
Today's match provided the Vixens with another stern inspection, and against the class of the Mystics shooters and the intensity of their defence, the home side were found wanting.
Vixens goal defence Anna Harrison had a huge match, producing the play of the game with just under four minutes remaining, using a ''cheer-lift' ' to block and steal when the Vixens were set to close within three with under two minutes left on the clock.
Her effort drew boos from the crowd but accolades from the commentary box as she secured possession and extinguished the Vixens hopes of snatching an unlikely win.
The Mystics opened the scoring first before both teams began playing with great intensity, the scoreboard locked at 7-7 at the midway point, before the Mystics shooting pair of Catherine Latu and Maria Tutaia edged them out to a 13-10 lead at the break.
The Mystics defence was also working well early on, Kayla Cullen and Harrison covering lots of space to upset the Vixens rhythm.
There was plenty of feeling within the Mystics goal circle too, Latu proving difficult to budge with Kate Beveridge, Bianca Chatfield, and Geva Mentor all coming off second-best, prompting complaints over the visitors overly-physical play.
Latu's leaning stance over her opposites eventually earned the ire of the umpire with two contact calls going against her, yet both sides were at fault with the contact penalties numbering 12-13 at the first break.
The resumption of play saw the Mystics miss the chance to push ahead by five, a few turnovers allowing the Vixens to come back and level things up before Latu shot her side ahead by one at the break.
Vixens goal attack Tegan Caldwell gave her side cause for concern when she went down with an ankle injury midway through the period, but after receiving treatment and extra strapping she was able to continue.
The third quarter saw the Mystics ease out to a four-point lead with Latu maintaining her phenomenal 100% record at goal, since a lone miss back in round three.
Tutaia was more of a presence in this period than during the first half, shooting nine from 12 to ease the pressure on Latu.
The home side rallied late in the final quarter to come within range but Harrison's innovative defensive play shut them down to ensure her side head home with the points.
Latu dropped one goal late in the game to put an end to her shooting-streak, but she and Tutaia, along with Harrison and wing attack Temepara George were all outstanding contributors.
The Vixens now eye another home match and the chance to return the winners circle against the fifth-placed NSW Swifts next Sunday, while the Mystics return home to face cellar dwellers The Canterbury Tactix in Auckland.