Sliema conjured an astonishing last-session recovery to send Neptunes Emirates reeling to their second defeat of the season which leaves the champions in second place, three points behind San Ġiljan.
The Blues were rewarded for their fighting spirit, skill and staying power against opponents seemingly in comfort zone after having twice enjoyed a four-goal lead – on 4-0 in the second session and 7-3 midway through the third.
Then, unbelievably, Neptunes lost their touch in the last session.
While Sliema should take heart from this success, in view of the KO final which they play against Neptunes, it was a match which the Reds would surely have to put behind them if they want to revive their league title hopes this summer.
Tight marking and swift double cover on the centre from both sides were evident from the outset. The Reds struck twice through Michele Stellini and Tamas Molnar with Sliema restricted to shooting hurriedly from a distance before Steve Camilleri lost a golden opportunity to make it 3-0.
That was left to schemer Alaksander Ciric who converted a man-up.
Stellini made it 4-0 but Sliema reduced the gap to 2-4 with goals from John Soler and Damir Buric.
Camilleri missed a penalty for the Reds but Ciric again made amends later before Timmy Sullivan trimmed the deficit to 3-5 at the interval. Heavyweight Soler was ominously hanging on two fouls at this stage.
Ciric, in good scoring form, opened a 7-3 lead for the Reds but Mark Meli and Soler, back in action, reduced the gap to 5-7.
Neptunes made it 8-5 through Molnar at the end of the third session.
Soler survived to help his team start their recovery. They fought back and managed to equalise with three goals in quick succession, the last with just over three minutes left. Their concentration and better man-up rate of conversion made for Sliema’s admirable comeback.
In a pulsating finale, time-outs were called at both ends when the score was 8-all until Sullivan scored a dramatic winner with ten seconds left to earn his team final accolades.
Neptunes 8 - Sliema 9
(2-0, 3-3, 3-2, 0-4)
Neptunes: A. Borg Cole, N. Lanzon, A. Sammut, M. Stellini 2, T. Agius, A. Ciric 4, S. Camilleri, J. Camilleri, M. Lanzon, S. Gravina, B. Lanzon, T. Molnar 2, C. Mercieca.
Sliema: R. Coleiro, D. Buric 1, N. Lubrano 1, T. Sullivan 2, M. Meli 1, J. Soler 2, G. Kiss 1, E. Aquilina, J. Brownrigg 1, J. Gabarretta, D. Pao-lella, M. Spiteri Staines, D. Abela.
Refs: M. Angileri, F. Gomez.