Wollongong has been struck down with season-ending knee injuries to Rhys Martin, Glen Saville and Lance Hurdle that looked capable of ruining its hopes of returning to playoff action, but the Hawks have hung in there and now the tide could be turning.
The Hawks benefitted on Saturday night at The Cage with Melbourne losing big man import Seth Scott to a back injury, centre Matt Burston to foul trouble and then star import point guard Jonny Flynn in the second half to a leg injury as well.
Following its horror run with injuries, Wollongong went from having a 7-1 record to start the season to lose 12 of its next 14 games to be 9-13 and looking likely to miss finals.
However, now with two wins from their last three games the Hawks are back up to an 11-14 record and third position on the table with games against Townsville, Sydney and Adelaide to close out the regular season over the next three weeks.
Melbourne had improved significantly to look set to consolidate third position having won eight of 10 games, but now three straight losses has seen the Tigers slip to 10-13 and be in danger of losing fourth spot to the chasing Sydney, Cairns or Townsville.
After a tight first half on Saturday night that saw Melbourne lead 47-41 at half-time, Wollongong came out a different looking unit in the third quarter outscoring the Tigers 29-14 to set up the eventual 88-82 victory.
Wollongong point guard Adris Deleon was the star of the night finishing with 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
There was so much more to like about his game than just those numbers, though, with him also having just one turnover and shooting 7-of-13 from the field, 5-of-8 from three-point territory and 12-of-14 from the charity stripe while playing all but one minute and five seconds of the game.
Centre Larry Davidson made the most of the absence of Scott and Burston from Melbourne and scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Oscar Forman, Tim Coenraad and Dave Gruber all added eight points each for the Hawks as well.
Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod was delighted with the way his team lifted in the second half.
"The big thing for us was our defence and we spoke about that at half-time because it needed to lift," McLeod said.
"We just gave up too much in the first half but it picked up in the second half and we started to hit some shots. That's exactly what you need to do when you play on the road if you want to win."
With Scott unable to take his place on the court, Burston limited to just four minutes and Flynn limited to having no impact in the second half after going down hurt, it was a tough night for the Tigers.
Chris Goulding top-scored with 21 points and tried to put the team on his back, but he shot just 8-of-19 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point territory.
Lucas Walker was the one to step up in the absence of big men Scott and Burston, and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Flynn managed 13 points and six assists before getting hurt with veteran Adam Ballinger adding 11 points.
Tigers coach Chris Anstey was left frustrated after the game about his team's lack of discipline.
"I'm just trying to figure out when some of our guys are going to learn," Anstey said.
"Small things make a big difference in this game and we've tried everything and I'm just sick of it. We don’t understand how important it is and we just don’t get it. The negatives far outweigh the positives right now."