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That was the case for the Southern Steel last night, as it battled to a 66-60 win over the Northern Mystics at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin.
While it led most of the way, the Steel was never able to pull away.
The Mystics matched it in everything it did and were unlucky not to emerge with a bonus point - Lenize Potgieter denying them one on the buzzer.
Seventeen-year-old goal shoot Grace Nweke's size was key for the visitors.
She was injected midway through the second quarter and made 40 of her 45 shots.
While the Steel defence had a tough time slowing her down, it was able to do just enough.
Abby Erwood came up with several key intercepts, while also forcing a handful of long feeds over the baseline.
At the other end, the attack grew as the game progressed and after a slow start, it flourished when it needed to.
The win pleased co-captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, who brought up 150 top-level matches.
The relentlessness the Steel showed to hold a slim lead the majority of the way and eventually deny the bonus point was ''really pleasing''.
''I think we were up pretty much the whole game,'' she said.
''We obviously want to push on.
''But the Mystics are a good team and they didn't let us do it. I'm so pleased we won by six in the end.''
Despite that she felt there were times the Steel needed to look after its possession better.
That had been particularly noticeable early, when the Mystics' defence was able to disrupt the Steel attack.
However, the Steel had been equally disruptive on its own defensive end to keep things close.
''We gave them a bit too much ball. I thought their defence played very well.
''I thought we didn't drive hard enough to the ball - they got hands to a lot of our passes.
''But I was really stoked with Kate [Heffernan] and Abby [Erwood].
''We've been working on attacking the ball high, not even letting it get to the end.
''They did that so well. It makes our job at the back much easier.''
The first quarter was a grind and it was the Mystics that emerged with a 14-13 lead.
It took the Steel attack six minutes to fire - scoring just three goals in that period - as it struggled to penetrate the probing Mystics' defence.
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, in particular, proved disruptive, but her attack was unable to make use of the ball.
When Nweke emerged early in the second quarter, Erwood and Selby-Rickit had their hands full.
However, the Mystics took a few minutes to adjust to her.
The defence got in front of her well, forcing her team-mates to throw over the top to feed her.
Twice they fed long over the baseline, while an Erwood rebound also gave the Steel an extra possession.
That proved the most crucial period of the game.
It enabled the Steel to open a 24-18 lead, although that returned to 30-27 at halftime.
That margin remained for most of the third quarter and through the fourth, before a late rally enabled the Steel to open a six-goal margin.