The enlivened Melbourne Vixens have challenged their Super Netball rivals to rise to a new benchmark after an impressive 59-53 comeback victory against the NSW Swifts at John Cain Arena.
After absorbing the best the Swifts could throw at them in an even first half, the Vixens found another gear and remain clear on top of the ladder in their pursuit of the minor premiership and potentially a home grand final.
The Sargeant MicKinnis Cup, named in part after Vixens coach Simone McKinnis, is back in Melbourne's hands, thanks largely to a decisive final term.
Defender Kate Eddy sprang to life with the game on the line to support player of the match Kate Moloney and goalers Mwai Kumwenda (37) and Kiera Austin (22).
"The Swifts came out hard," Moloney, who started in wing defence before switching to centre where she controlled the game defensively, said.
"Teams are playing for a top four spot every time they play against us so we know we've got to come with our best game.
"It was a slow start but we turned it up in that second quarter and we were able to push on."
For the fourth-placed Swifts, it was a missed opportunity to steal a two-win buffer over the Queensland Firebirds (fifth).
NSW goal attack Helen Housby was a standout with 39 goals but the rest of the Swifts attack was stifled by the Vixens' second-half resurgence.
Coach Briony Akle's Swifts threw down an almighty challenge to the competition leaders in the first half.
A 17-12 opening quarter ambush was ample reward for the women in red, with the old firm of Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley taking charge in the midcourt.
The experienced duo placed the Vixens under enormous pressure with their speed and ability to drive to the edge of the shooting circle.
For all their endeavour, the Swifts could not put away the Vixens.
Vixens co-captain Moloney was a pivotal figure with and without the ball to firstly keep her team in touch then help the hosts push ahead by a goal at three-quarter time.
Eddy followed her leader.
After coming off the bench in the second quarter, the defensive pressure she heaped on the Swifts attack was telling.
Her four gains - three in the second half - played a major part in the fightback.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.