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Super Netball ladder leaders Melbourne Vixens are on track to complete a stunning rise from wooden spooners to minor premiers after holding off a strong challenge from Sunshine Coast Lightning in a 64-60 victory.
After closing a disastrous 2021 season with just two wins, the rejuvenated Vixens completed their fifth victory on the trot in Sunday's clash at John Cain Arena to build a two-game lead over West Coast Fever at the top of the table with two rounds to play.
The home side was pushed all the way by a determined Lightning outfit fighting to keep their top-four hopes alive, recovering from nine goals down to level the scores in the final quarter.
But the Vixens kept their cool during a tense finish with late intercepts from defensive duo Emily Mannix and Jo Weston helping secure the victory and thwarting the bottom-placed Lightning's quest to remain in the semi-final hunt.
"Obviously it'd be great to finish minor premiers, we spoke about it before the game today," Mannix said after the Vixens moved to the brink of sealing top spot and home-court advantage for next month's finals series.
"There's nothing better than finishing on top so hopefully we keep winning and see how we go."
Sunshine Coast needed a repeat of their stunning upset victory in round five, where they ended the Vixens' unbeaten start to the season, in order to join the logjam of teams sitting on 20 competition points.
Inspirational captain Steph Wood started for the Lightning despite leaving last week's win over Queensland Firebirds with a knee problem.
She appeared to aggravate the injury in the opening minute of the game.
Wood returned to the action late in the first quarter, won 19-13 by the Vixens, and joined midcourter Annie Miller to help spark her team in the second term as the Lightning finished with a flurry to cut Melbourne's advantage to 32-29.
The Vixens steadied during the third quarter with Mwai Kumwenda improving her accuracy under the post and Kiera Austing landing her team's first super shot to extend their lead to 49-43.
The Lightning refused to give in as they reeled off seven goals in a row early in the fourth quarter to level the scores.
But Melbourne's defensive prowess came to the fore in the closing stages, Mannix and Weston both finishing the match with seven gains and four intercepts.