MANAMA last night gained a significant psychological advantage ahead of the Zain Bahrain Basketball Cup Final with a dramatic 82-80 victory over bitter rivals Muharraq in their final match of the Top Six round-robin stage.
The two sides will meet again in the best-of-three finals series next month but last night's result will give reigning champions Manama a great boost of confidence in the build-up.
Despite both having already secured their places in the final before last night's fixture, this was never going to be anything less than a fierce encounter between the two superpowers of the Bahraini basketball scene.
Indeed, despite what might have been an understandable urge to keep something up the sleeve for the challenges ahead, the respective coaches both made their intentions clear by sending their strongest sides onto the court for the start.
For Muharraq's Charlie Parker that meant the introduction of the evergreen and indomitable Ahmed Malalla alongside talismanic American star CJ Giles, while for Manama and Argentine coach Ricardo Daniel, there was a welcome return for the imposing Ahmed Al Mutawa.
While not quite the bearpit atmosphere of the previous encounter between these two sides earlier this month, which Manama won by 92-88, last night's battle at the Zain Bahrain Basketball Arena in Umm Al Hassam got underway in explosive fashion.
That was down mostly to a Muharraq side, who scorched out of the blocks all guns blazing to race into 10-2 lead with two and a half minutes played.
That brought about an explosion of another kind as Daniel called a time out at that point and proceeded to let rip at his players.
It seemed to do the trick however, as, within a few minutes had overturned that deficit and actually led 17-14 at one stage.
Muharraq came back into things thereafter and edged to a 24-21 first quarter win but the tone was set for an epic tussle.
Things continued in a similar fashion in the second period, after which the Muharraq lead was down to 38-37.
The second half saw frustration filter into the Muharraq ranks once again, as occurred during recent defeats to Manama and Al Hala, and their opponents duly took advantage and control of the match in a commanding 64-51 lead.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, it looked as though Muharraq had shot themselves in the foot and Manama would go on to take the win with relative ease but they showed a determined side to them and stormed back into contention, with Giles, who scored 25 points on the night, leading the charge.
Pulling back to 80-82, Muharraq had one last throw of the dice but Darius Rice, who top-scored for his side with 24, gratefully snaffled a rebound and Manama held on for victory.