The Taipans were coming off winning their opening two games of the 2013/14 NBL season and got off to a hot start at home to the 36ers leading by as much as 16 points in the opening period.
Cairns' advantage was still 14 points by quarter-time and it again got back out to 16 during the second quarter, but suddenly Adelaide caught fire in the final five minutes of the first half and managed to lead 45-44 at the main break.
However, it then took Adelaide three and-a-half minutes to score to start the second half and at the other end Cairns managed to go on an 11-0 run and then turned that into a 16-5 start to the third quarter.
By three quarter-time, the Taipans had scored 22 points to just 10 from the 36ers and led by 11 points to appear in command of the contest but Adelaide wasn’t to be denied.
Gary Ervin, Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson were money for the 36ers down the stretch from the free-throw line and when Cairns' Stephen Weigh, playing his first game against Adelaide where he spent the last two seasons, missed a three on the buzzer the Sixers held on for three-point win.
Adelaide has not played in an NBL finals campaign for four years and has claimed the last two wooden spoons, but have added Ervin and Jarrid Frye to a strong contingent of Australian players under new coach Joey Wright.
On paper, Adelaide has a roster that should be capable of challenging for the NBL championship this season and after a first-up loss to Perth with captain Adam Gibson and import Frye missing, the 36ers have now strung two wins together to start building some momentum.
Cairns, on the other hand, also has a strong group together this season and started strongly with wins over Townsville and New Zealand, but just came up short against the 36ers and dearly missed starting shooting guard Cameron Gliddon who led the Taipans to the win over the Breakers last week.
Mitch Creek top-scored for Adelaide with 14 points on the back of 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point territory showing that he is fully recovered from his ruptured Achilles, and just how sorely the Sixers missed him last season.
Gibson, Frye and Petrie all scored 13 points apiece for the 36ers Ervin had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds in a strong all-round performance.
Johnson also had 10 points and Luke Schenscher eight.
Alex Loughton and Cameron Tragardh both had big games for Cairns inside with Loughton finishing with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Tragardh adding 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Import guard duo Jamar Wilson and Demetri McCarney were also solid with Wilson having 17 points and six rebounds, and McCarney 13 points, four boards and three assists but shooting just 5-of-15 from the field and 2-of-10 from three-point territory.
Weigh managed just two points to go with seven rebounds and three assists shooting 0-of-10 from the field for the Snakes.
Round 3 of the NBL will continue on Saturday night with the Wollongong Hawks hosting the Townsville Crocodiles before on Sunday, the Sydney Kings host the Perth Wildcats and the Melbourne Tigers take on the Adelaide 36ers at The Cage.