In the top-of-the-table clash in front of almost 9000 fans at Auckland's Vector Arena, the two-time defending champion New Zealand Breakers won comfortably 98-81 over the second-place Perth Wildcats to move five games clear on top of the ladder.
Meanwhile at the other end, the Adelaide 36ers slipped to being two games clear in last place with a disappointing home loss to a Wollongong Hawks team that has lost three of its starters in recent weeks to knee injuries – Glen Saville, Lance Hurdle and Rhys Martin.
Even though the Breakers had lost their first two clashes against the Wildcats this season by a combined 46 points, they were never in danger of losing for the first time in almost two months for the final three quarters.
The Wildcats did start on fire to lead 14-2 early on, but the Breakers caught fire in the second period with 34 points to 18 to hold a 10-point half-time advantage. That was out to 20 by three quarter-time and the Breakers secured their club record extending 10th straight win.
New Zealand has won the last two NBL championships and now would need a major slide over their last seven games of the 2012-13 campaign to not be minor premiers once more.
The Breakers have now not lost since going down to the Kings in Sydney on December 8 last year and sit on an 18-3 record to be well clear of the 13-5 Wildcats.
With home games against Wollongong, Adelaide, Cairns and Melbourne to come, just winning those would be enough just about for the Breakers to secure the minor premiership and earn home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
It was another good all-round effort from the Breakers with point guard Cedric Jackson the standout finishing with 22 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals as he continued his push to be the MVP of the league.
He had plenty of support with Corey Webster scoring a career-best 14 points, Tom Abercrombie 12 and Will Hudson 11 to go with his eight rebounds.
Veteran CJ Bruton also scored 14 points on 2-of-3 shooting from three-point territory and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe, and was delighted with the first win over Perth since last year's Grand Final Game 3.
"We are happy. Obviously we have put in a lot of work from the start of the year to now, and we are working on our chemistry and a lot of different things. We've put a few things in place and we are starting to come good," Bruton said.
"When you take an ass whooping two times from them, it always means a bit more but really it was just another game. From where we were at the start of the year to where we are now, you can see our improvement.
"We're definitely not peaking. Honestly we still have our lapses like every team, but we have still come away with wins because our defence has held strong. We don’t even know how good we can be right now."
The loss ended the Wildcats' winning run at five as they recorded their first defeat since December 14 last year.
Big man Matt Knight scored 16 points with Jesse Wagstaff adding 14, Shawn Redhage 12 (and seven assists) and Damian Martin nine. Reigning league MVP Kevin Lisch had just nine points while shooting 3-of-12 from the field.
Then in Adelaide, the 36ers' disastrous season took another turn for the worse with a home loss to a Wollongong team that was struggling just to field a side.
Already with starting guards Hurdle and Martin both having their seasons ended with knee injuries, they were joined this week by Saville, who not only saw his season end early but also his career.
The 37-year-old retired after 563 NBL games (all but 36 came with Wollongong with the others in his one season with the Sydney Kings), and having been Grand Final MVP of the Hawks' only championship in 2001 and as a dual Olympian in 2004 and 2008.
He was still playing well this season averaging 8.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists a game, but the knee injury saw him have to retire early and his teammates responded in the best possible way beating Adelaide 86-78 to maintain their hold on fourth spot on the ladder.
Wollongong had lost seven games on the trot heading to Adelaide, but now improves to 9-10 on the season to still hold off Melbourne (7-10), Cairns (6-11) and Townsville (6-12).
The 36ers now have lost 11 of their last 12 games to be in last position and with just two home matches remaining this season, with road trips to Perth, New Zealand and Wollongong to come, the wooden spoon looks to be theirs.
The Hawks signed guard Malcolm Grant to replace Hurdle and Martin, and he came up big in just his second NBL game with 21 points including hitting 4-of-5 from three-point range.
Oscar Forman also scored 18 points to go with seven rebounds, Larry Davidson had 14 points and 10 board, and Tim Coenraad 11 points and six boards.
There was precious little to like for Adelaide's home fans with Daniel Johnson putting in a good performance with 21 points and seven boards. Stephen Weigh added 14 points with Jason Cadee scoring nine and Anthony Petrie eight.