The Collingwood Magpies have qualified for the Super Netball semi-finals in dramatic fashion after holding onto their top-four place despite a 56-54 defeat to the Melbourne Vixens.
Needing a victory or narrow loss to finish fourth ahead of defending champions NSW Swifts, the Magpies trailed by two goals in the dying seconds of Monday's derby clash at John Cain Arena with Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda lining up a two-point shot that would have eliminated them from the finals.
But Kumwenda's long shot missed the mark as the siren sounded with Collingwood players and staff desperately waiting for confirmation that they would be making their first finals appearance since the 2019 season.
"I looked at the results and I thought it was two (goals) and we were done, then I saw Kelsey (Browne's) face as she was like 'no, we've done it' and then that was it. Emotions? Gone," Geva Mentor told Fox Netball.
Collingwood will head to Sydney to take on the Giants in next Sunday's minor semi-final while Melbourne will host West Coast Fever in Saturday night's major semi-final.
The Magpies were rocked on the eve of their season-defining clash with co-captain Ash Brazill and defender Jodi-Ann Ward forced to join Maggie Lind and head coach Nicole Richardson on the sidelines due to health and safety protocols.
The loss of Ward prompted the Magpies to hand retired Australian Diamonds defender Renae Ingles a shock return to competitive netball, the 35-year-old joining the squad to face her former Vixens teammates after three years out of the game.
Melbourne held a narrow 16-15 lead after one quarter with Magpies debutant Casey Adamson making an impressive start to her national league career in her match-up with current Diamonds captain Liz Watson.
With the Vixens starting to gain the ascendancy, Magpies caretaker coach Kate Upton introduced Ingles midway through the second quarter but the minor premiers remained poised to extend their advantage 32-27 at halftime.
Collingwood's finals hopes appeared to be slipping away when they fell behind by 10 goals in the third quarter but the Magpies levelled the score with an 11-4 start to the fourth quarter, thanks to the tireless work of midcourter Browne and smooth finishing from shooter Shimona Nelson.
While pleased to survive an intense finish to record a seventh win on the trot, Vixens co-captain Watson knows her squad cannot afford another fade-out against the Fever in the grand final qualifier.
"It's a really quick turnaround so we're really focused for that match and we want to go into those finals really strong, and be here at home hopefully we can get the win," Watson said.