Cairns have kept their finals hopes alive with an 83-80 home win in the NBL's Sunshine Stoush with Queensland rivals Brisbane.
The injury-depleted Bullets were without Perrin Buford and Anthony Petrie and it showed, with the men in maroon looking for much of the match like a shell of the team that had already beaten the Taipans three times this season.
Brisbane started well behind a six-point first quarter from Daniel Kickert. Despite the big going home with a season high of 27 points, though, the southerners found themselves down by as many as 17 in the second quarter as Cairns began to click.
Veteran Snake Alex Loughton turns 35 this year but the forward again proved worthy of another contract after scoring 22 points, his fourth consecutive match finishing with more than 20.
Taipans point guard duo Jarrad Weeks and Dayshon 'Scoochie' Smith also worked well together in their third match as an experimental pair, posting 15 and 13 points respectively.
But just as the match looked won, Brisbane led a late fightback to scare the home side as former Taipans MVP Travis Trice tried to become the heartbreaker with 23 points.
He cut the lead to just three with 8 seconds to go and then Cairns Captain Cam Gliddon failed to find a man on an inbound pass on halfway.
The error handed Trice a corner three-point shot to tie it up but it rimmed out, just.
Bullets coach Andre Lemanis couldn't fault his men for fighting until the end.
"Down 17 we could have imploded, it shows a lot of character to comeback the way we did," he said.
"I understand Buford got through some training today, so we'll have to monitor that before Sunday's match (against Adelaide)."
Cairns coach Aaron Fearne was relieved his men avoided a third consecutive loss but warned their fourth quarter collapse could come back to haunt them.
"The disappointing thing is we could have won a match by 15 points but we didn't do that, people are going to miss the finals by points," he said.
Brisbane will host Adelaide on Sunday, while Cairns face a tough week on the road, with trips to New Zealand on Sunday and Adelaide next Thursday.