Wasps Netball opened up a nine-point gap on fifth-place Saracens Mavericks with a 58-51 win in Milton Keynes.
The Black and Golds trailed following the first-quarter but Mel Mansfield’s side came back strongly in the second period to build a decisive advantage.
The hard-fought win sees Wasps go level with Manchester Thunder at the top of the Superleague and take a big step towards a top-four finish.
Mansfield said: “We said this was a big game and it’s a really important win for us to pick up.
“I was really impressed with the defensive effort from the entire team out there but particularly the circle defence.
“We played a really smart game and adapted well to the changes Mavericks made in their attack.
“Fran Williams and Hannah Knights were excellent for us. They were aggressive and were really brave forcing a lot of turnovers.
“We’re in a good position now, being joint-top on points at this stage of the season. We’ve got two big games at Easter at Ricoh Arena and we’re looking forward to them.”
The hosts were fast out of the blocks and rushed out to an early three-goal lead.
Fran Williams forced an interception to halt Mavericks’ momentum and Rachel Dunn capitalised at the other end.
Mavericks were able to open up a four-goal lead, but Wasps immediately reined them back in, inspired by Bongi Msomi’s mid-court creativity.
The hosts pushed the ball back up the court to score before the buzzer and take a one-goal lead into the second-quarter.
Wasps scored first in the second-quarter through Dunn to level the scores and soon the Black and Golds led by two after a quickfire double.
Amy Flanagan and Hannah Knights produced interceptions on successive possessions to give their side a foothold – capitalising on sloppy play from the hosts.
Mavericks composed themselves, with ex-Wasp George Fisher enjoying a clinical shooting quarter, going goal-for-goal with Dunn.
The visitors finished the half strongly with the duo of Dunn and Katie Harris exerting their influence to help Wasps to an eight-goal advantage.
Mavericks forced two turnovers as they looked to reduce the deficit at the start of the third-quarter.
Sasha and Kadeen Corbin linked up well for the hosts, but Wasps kept working to limit attacking opportunities and were able to maintain their lead.
Mavericks enjoyed the best of the action, finding their shooters well, yet still trailed by seven goals as the fourth-quarter began.
Wasps started the final-quarter firing on all cylinders and within minutes led by 12, with Hannah Knights forcing a contact call to gain a key turnover and Jade Clarke following up with a tipped pass for the interception.
A late rally from Mavericks saw the hosts register three unanswered goals to put the pressure on Wasps with a minute to play, but the reigning champions kept their composure to secure a 58-51 victory.
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Image credit: Steve Porter