Northern Mystics kept their trans-Tasman netball playoff hopes on track with a solid 64-55 win over wooden spooners Canterbury Tactix in Christchurch on Sunday.
With only two points separating the top four teams, and home court advantage at stake, the win lifted the Mystics from fourth back to the top of the table.
They came out firing and shot out to an early 9-3 lead but the Tactix did well to weather the storm, closing the gap to trail 11-10 midway through the spell.
Their English internationals featured at both ends of the court, defender Stacey Francis working hard to keep goal attack Maria Tutaia under wraps while shooter Jo Harten showed good focus early on.
But the Mystics' strength and pace through the midcourt eventually told, lifted by some impressive circle defending from Anna Harrison and Kayla Cullen.
Their timing on the shot was impressive, Cullen at one stage hoisting Harrison high to block a goal-bound Harten shot.
And when Harrison left the court soon after with a calf injury, replacement Rachel Rasmussen repeated the manoeuvre successfully in boosting Cullen to do the same.
The Mystics led 17-12 at the end of the first quarter, then really hammered home their advantage to take the second spell 20-12 and lead 37-24 at halftime.
Tactix coach Leigh Gibbs revamped her circle defence at halftime, bringing on Jo Trip and Anna Galvan and shifting Francis out to the wing.
The new combination worked hard in reining back the Mystics in the third stanza, shutting down the flow of ball into the circle, but the Aucklanders held a handy 52-37 lead at three-quarter time.
Unflappable goal shoot Cathrine Latu was again on song, shooting 45 from 46, and adding just one goal to her season's total of seven misses from 12 games.The Tactix dug deep in the closing quarter, winning the spell 18-12, but the damage done earlier was too much to repair.