The Canberra Capitals staged a fourth-quarter revival to keep their slim WNBL play-off hopes alive and deny the AIS a famous victory last night.
While the 18-point winning margin appears comfortable, it was anything but as a brave AIS made the Capitals work hard for their fifth win of the season.
The Capitals overcame an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter to run out a 87-69 victor at the AIS Training Hall.
It was a scoreline Capitals coach Carrie Graf conceded did not reflect how close her side went to slumping to a third straight defeat.
''That 18 points was flattering,'' Graf said. ''It was a tight game.
''They're bigger and more athletic than us in every position, so we knew this was going to be a battle.
''[Marianna] Tolo and [Brigitte] Ardossi getting into foul trouble hurt us, but the smaller [players] did a job.''
The Capitals were expected to easily overcome the last-placed AIS after a 91-55 thumping the last time the teams met, in Albury last month.
But there was no such blowout in the first half, with neither side able to lead by more than four points.
When the AIS held a slim 37-35 advantage at half-time, an upset was on the cards.
The AIS built on its momentum in the third quarter, leading by as much as 11 points before the Capitals responded to trail 59-53 at three-quarter time. From there the Capitals took control, outscoring their opponent 34-16 in the final 10 minutes to improve their record to 5-9 for the season.
Despite sitting on four fouls for most of the second half, Opals centre Marianna Tolo continued her stellar offensive form with 21 points.
Veteran skipper Jess Bibby (17 points) and point guard Nicole Hunt (15) also contributed strongly, while Casey Samuels led the AIS with 19 points.
Tolo said the Capitals' ability to respond when the game was on the line would hold the seven-time champion in good stead for a grand final rematch against the Bulleen Boomers at the AIS Arena this Sunday.
''When I was sitting on the bench I was getting fired up, and I was thinking there's no way we're losing this game,'' Tolo said.
''When I came out I tried to be really aggressive. That's the character of us.
''We were able to stick with it and keep fighting and when we got our opportunities we took them and made a comeback at the right time.''
CANBERRA CAPITALS 87 (Marianna Tolo 21, Jess Bibby 17, Nicole Hunt 15) bt AIS 69 (Casey Samuels 19, Carley Mijovic 14, Olivia Thompson 11) at the AIS Training Hall last night.
This reporter is on Twitter: @lee_gaskin1