The Robinhood Stars' ANZ Premiership finals hopes have been dashed after a 46-45 loss to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland.
The Stars needed to win to have any chance of featuring in the playoffs after heading into the game in fourth spot on the ladder.
Both sides made a nervous start to the match, as the Steel snapped up an early turnover and shot out to a 3-0 lead. The Stars begun to flex their defensive muscle though and goal keep Anna Harrison made her mark on the game, latching onto two intercepts and finishing the opening period with four gains.
The attacking end begun to show the flair the Stars started the season with and as midcourters Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan sent some rocket deliveries into shooter Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume, the Stars found their mojo and suddenly were ahead by two goals.
The Steel hit back with some strong play of their own, led by defensive pressure and cut down the deficit and the scores were level 13-all at quarter-time.
The Stars made a shaky start to the second quarter and fell behind by two goals early on.
The Steel were unable to make the most of gaining momentum and the Stars maintained their trademark defensive press and managed to execute a number of turnover.
The Stars fought hard and were able to close the gap and eventually take the lead after an extended period of pressure.
Steel goal shoot George Fisher was proving unflappable in front of goal, but with some tireless work from Elle Temu in the defence circle, the Stars were able to win some important ball and after some back and forth, the teams once again couldn't be separated at quarter's end with the scores locked at 24-all at half-time.
The Steel shot out the gates in the third quarter with some slick play and the ability to punish any Stars mistakes seeing them snatch hold of a four goal advantage.
Jamie Hume showed incredible poise in the Stars' shooting circle with great assistance from Wilson, as Hume strung together a perfect shooting quarter - nailing all 10 of her shots at goal.
Anna Harrison nabbed hold of back to back intercepts as the Stars closed the gap, but missed out on a chance to tie the game and with a late turnover, the Steel went into an all-important final quarter ahead 37-35.
The Stars threw everything into the final quarter knowing their season was going to come down to an all or nothing approach.
The Steel made the stronger start to proceedings and stretched out to a valuable four-goal lead early on.
The Stars refused to give up however and with their cliche stubbornness chipped away at the deficit and with some big shots from Hume and new shooter Monica Falkner - the Stars had found their second wind and the game was now all locked up with the crowd coming to life.
The Steel held their nerve though and despite immense pressure being placed on them, didn't put a foot wrong when it mattered and hung on to a one-goal advantage to break the Stars' hearts.
The Stars will be looking to finish the season strong in front of their home fans when they host the Splice Construction Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic next Monday.