Battling Team Northumbria came mightily close to pulling off the first real shock of the Netball Superleague season as TeAroha Keenan’s side made Manchester Thunder sweat for a third successive win.
A thrilling clash looked too tight to call as TN trailed 40-39 midway through the final quarter.
But Manchester found an extra gear down the stretch to pull clear of Keenan’s side and cement their position at the top of the NSL table with a 53-46 win.
The hosts led 16-10 after the first quarter before Keenan introduced close-season signing Sophie Hankin at goal attack.
And the former Mavericks favourite provided the missing spark for the battling visitors as TN started to make their presence felt in the attacking third.
Manchester were fortunate to lead 26-23 at half-time with Hankin’s last-gasp shot adjudged to have dropped a fraction of a second after the buzzer.
But TN were buoyed by an impressive second quarter and for the first time this season the Sport Central club maintained the momentum heading into the third.
A feisty period saw the visitors pick up a series of cautions – Scotland GK Hayley Mulheron incurring the wrath of a partisan home crowd.
But TN’s aggressive approach had the hosts rattled and Thunder were relieved to take a 39-35 lead into the final quarter.
Keenan’s side pushed hard to take their first lead of the night but after coming so close Manchester finally shut up shop – an 8-1 burst establishing a 48-40 lead and laying the foundation for a hard-fought victory.
TN must lick their wounds and regroup ahead of Monday night’s trip to Glasgow where a UWS Sirens side boasting former favourite Leah Kennedy lies in wait.