The Robinhood Stars have slipped to fourth amongst a congested ANZ Premiership ladder after falling to a 52-39 defeat to The Good Oil Tactix in Christchurch.
The result sees the Stars move outside of the top three for the first time this season, with the Tactix in second and Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel third - two points ahead of the Stars.
The enormity of the contest was evident from the first whistle, with both teams failing to open the scoring with their first opportunity with the ball.
The Stars' dynamic defensive duo of Anna Harrison and Elle Temu were working hard from the outset to suffocate the Tactix shooting circle and were successful on many occasions, with a number of deflections and gains.
A failure to finish was the main thing letting the Stars down early, as the Tactix built up a six-goal lead off the back of pressure from their own defensive pairing of Jane Watson and Karin Burger.
The Stars began to string together some slick link-up play across the court and managed to cut the deficit to three goals - with the Tactix taking a 12-9 lead into the second quarter.
The Tactix made a stronger start to the quarter, and worked towards a seven goal advantage after feasting on missed shots by the Stars and turning them into points.
With the Stars desperate for some ascendancy, coach Kiri Wills decided to bring off captain and shooter Maia Wilson who was having a tough night and bring on Monica Falkner.
Falkner showed a calm head under pressure and used her experience to make herself free in the shooting circle and help bring the Stars back into the contest with some important goals alongside goal attack Jamie Hume.
Wing attack Gina Crampton injected pace into the Stars midcourt and with her trademark accurate feeds helped the Stars chip away at the deficit and trail by just two goals.
Temu was also a key cog in turning the Stars' fortunes around, with a monster defensive showing in the second quarter - Temu latched onto three intercepts and while the Stars couldn't quite tie up the match, they went into the changing rooms at half-time down 23-21.
The Tactix defence frustrated the Stars for the whole third quarter, with Burger and Watson refusing to give Falkner, Wilson or Hume room to breathe throughout.
Despite a valiant effort from the Stars defence, turnovers weren't turned into enough goals and the Tactix regained poise on attack and suddenly led by eight goals and finished the third quarter ahead 37-29.
The Stars tried all they could to finish the game strong, but the Tactix wouldn't let up and they were the ones that would come home strong.
The fourth quarter was a sloppy affair and the Stars' missed shots took their toll, as the Tactix ran away with a 52-39 triumph in what was the Stars' lowest score of the campaign.
The Stars will aim to bounce back next Monday when they head back to Auckland and host the Southern Steel in the penultimate match of the regular season.