The Melbourne Vixens staved off a gallant Mainland Tactix side to win 56-52 at Hisense Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The win was the Vixens second on the trot, the first time they've achieved that feat since the opening two rounds, and opens up outright third position for Melbourne on the Australian Conference Ladder.
Following a moving on-court ANZAC ceremony, the match resembled an arm-wrestle for much of the day.
Despite dropping the first centre pass of the day, the home side got the jump with the opening three goals before the Tactix responded, ensuring the first quarter remained a goal-for-goal tug-of-war.
Inseparable on 14 goals apiece at quarter time, it was the Vixens who were able to get some fluency to their game and create a five-goal margin before the Tactix called for a time-out.
The break in play halted the home side's momentum, as Tactix coach Sue Hawkins substituted goal attack Gemma Hazeldine – who had been well held by Bianca Chatfield – for athletic goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda.
Hawkins' move to send Bailey Mes (32 from 35) out to her customary goal attack position, saw a revitalisation in the visitors' attacking structure, as the Tactix eradicated the Vixens' lead and took a one-goal advantage into half time.
A scare was sent through the Vixens camp late in the second quarter when Chatfield left the court after falling heavily. Jo Weston, Chatfield's replacement, saw court time for the remaining three and a half minutes of the second term before Chatfield returned without apparent discomfort in the second half.
Led by Mes' accurate shooting, the Vixens couldn't break the shackles of the Tactix in a high-scoring, shootout through the third quarter, before two crucial wins from Geva Mentor and then Kate Moloney allowed the Vixens the possession break they were dearly after.
But while the mid-court was battle of will, the Vixens were well rewarded with competent shooting performance from Tegan Philip (26 from 33) and match MVP Karyn Bailey (30 from 33).
Still searching for their first win in over 12 months, the Tactix were desperate not to be pushed beyond a three- or four-goal margin.
With third-gamer Kelsey Browne (11 assists) growing in confidence at wing attack, the Vixens pushed the lead to a game-high six goals inside the final four minutes off the back of some strong takes from Bailey.
But more Vixens errors and the Tactix's ability to capitalise had the game back to within three goals inside the final two minutes, before some level-headed composure and converting from Philip assured the much-needed four premiership points.
Post-match, Vixens coach Simone McKinnis credited the visitors tenacity in pushing the game for the full 60 minutes.
“It's a win, and it's a win that we needed," McKinnis said.
“They played very well, but we also made it hard for ourselves at times as well. We'd get five in a row and then pretty much lose five in a row.
“Something that had been good for us in the last couple of weeks is just letting it go.
“We started to hesitate and not give that ball when it was on. When you're not giving it when it's on, you're making it hard for yourself."
McKinnis admitted to “teething problems" on the front end of the Vixens court, but stressed that her team was still adjusting and improving to the changes of new personnel.
“There are some adjustments and there's some learning for Kelsey," she said. “Initially she's learning just plays, but there's also adapting to set ups.
“She's still working hard for us out on court, you can't question her commitment to what she's doing out there.
“I think everyone at different times had moments on court, whether it be a dropped ball or a poor pass. But we've won, so I'm happy."
Now having ended their three-game home stretch, the Vixens now commence a two-game road trip, starting with the NSW Swifts at Allphones Arena next Sunday.
Official Result: Melbourne Vixens 56 defeated Mainland Tactix 52
Vixens Shooting Statistics
Karyn Bailey 30/33 (91%)
Tegan Philip 26/33 (79%)
Tactix Shooting Statistics
Bailey Mes 32/35 (91%)
Mwai Kumwedna 17/20 (85%)
Gemma Hazeldine 3/5 (60%)
Chemist Warehouse Match MVP: Karyn Bailey (Melbourne Vixens)