Report: A nail-biting finish splits the difference between the Swifts and Pies
A long-range goal on the final buzzer by Magpie Erin Bell has capped off a heart-stopping 57-57 draw between Collingwood and the NSW Swifts in Melbourne on Saturday.
It was an emotional match for the Magpies, with fan favourite and former Samsung Diamond Sharni Layton announcing during the week that this season will be her last, as she is retiring from all forms of netball.
While the Magpies' finals chances were all-but dashed heading into this contest, the Swifts remained a mathematical chance - but they needed to win big in this clash if they were going to realistically challenge the teams above them.
Both teams went hammer and tong for every second of the match in a see-sawing encounter that saw fight back after fight back.
Bell seized control for the Magpies in the final quarter and it was fitting that she nailed the long goal right on the buzzer to secure the draw.
The Swifts again elected to start captain Abbey McCulloch on the bench, along with new recruit and English Rose Natalie Haythornthwaite.
The Magpies were in no mood to surrender to the Swifts and the opening quarter was a tough battle with the scores locked midway through the term.
The Swifts were prepared to chance their arm against Layton with several long balls into shooter Sam Wallace and it was the visitors who broke the deadlock first, edging out to a 14-10 lead - a buffer they would carry into the break to claim the first bonus point.
It was harder work for the Swifts in the second quarter as the Magpies locked down their midcourt defence.
But neither side were able to break the game open, with the margin remaining the same for the first 10 minutes of the term.
Finally, the Magpies got their first goal off a turnover to earn a reward for their defence and allowed them to draw to within two goals.
That paved the way for a Collingwood bonus point, but the Swifts were still out in front 28-26 at halftime.
The good Magpies form continued into the third quarter and four minutes in they snatched the lead from the Swifts.
McCulloch was injected into the fray and delivered an impassioned rallying cry for the Swifts to lift.
Lift they did, with the NSW team reclaiming the lead to take a 44-41 advantage into three-quarter time and claim a crucial bonus point in the process.
It wasn't long before the scores were locked again though, as both sides furiously battled for the win.
Suddenly it was the Swifts who struggled to score off turnovers which gave the Magpies the momentum - and the lead once more.
The Swifts suffered a setback in the final quarter when Maddy Proud left the court with a leg cramp, forcing a reshuffle to the attacking structures.
Paige Hadley also collided heavily with Layton, but amongst the carnage, the Swifts were able to open up a two-goal advantage once more. But Bell's heroics gave the Magpies a result and delivered heartbreak to the Swifts.
Collingwood head coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell lauded her team's fight back in the final term.
"Once again, the team showed their spirit to be able to come back and fight for each other," she said post-game.
"I was really proud of them.
"It's not a win, and it's not a loss...but we walk away with four points.
"A result like this does help with the belief that we can go out there and perform, especially when you have players like Erin Bell."
Q1: Magpies 14 v Swifts 18
Q2: Magpies 12 v Swifts 10
Q3: Magpies 15 v Swifts 16
Q4: Magpies 16 v Swifts 13
Suncorp Super Netball premiership points
Magpies shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 34/37
Erin Bell 23/29
Swifts shooting statistics
Sam Wallace 17/19
Helen Housby 19/22
Sophie Garbin 21/22
Magpies starting seven
GS: Caitlin Thwaites, GA: Erin Bell, WA: Madi Robinson, C: Kim Ravaillion, WD: Ash Brazill, GD: April Brandley, GK: Sharni Layton
Swifts starting seven
GS: Sam Wallace, GA: Helen Housby, WA: Paige Hadley, C: Maddy Proud, WD: Kate Eddy, GD: Maddy Turner, GK: Sarah Klau
Match MVP: Caitlin Thwaites