New Zealand knew they would have to come up with something special if they were to beat tournament favourites Australia in the playoffs of the World Softball Championships.
The Black Sox produced exactly that at Rosedale Park in Albany last night, coming from a run down in the 10th inning to win 5-4 and give themselves a golden opportunity of clinching a sixth world title.
The scores were level after the regulation seven innings and, once Australia edged in front in the top of the 10th, Brad Rona came up with the clutch two-out RBI double to tie the game before Donny Hale ended the marathon match with a single up the middle.
The win guarantees a medal for New Zealand, who exacted an element of revenge for Australia's victory in the final of the last world champs four years ago in Canada, while Australia must win twice tomorrow to qualify for the medal round.
The Black Sox will today play the winner of last night's match between Canada and Venezuela for a spot in the gold medal match. The loser of that game will at worse finish with the bronze but could still qualify for the tournament showpiece.
There was plenty of support for the home side last night at Rosedale Park, but a Kiwi win seemed unlikely when running an eye over the respective form of the two teams.
Australia ended pool play as the only unbeaten side, winning all seven games with a run differential of 43, while the Black Sox lost once and struggled at times with pitching.
Pitching was no problem, with Jeremy Manley tossing three scoreless innings in relief of Heinie Shannon and Nik Hayes stamping out an Australian threat in the seventh before throwing three no-hit frames in the tie-break.
New Zealand's offence was kick-started by a two-run home run from Rona, while Nukunuku hit the go-ahead single in the fifth before Rona again came up huge and Hale won it.
Australia took the lead in the second when Jeff Goolagong hit a towering homer off Shannon and, two innings later, Goolagong's second long ball of the night doubled Australia's advantage and brought Manley to the mound.
After Manley struck out the first three hitters he faced, New Zealand tied the game in the bottom half of the fourth courtesy of Rona's two-run shot to left.
The runs were the first Australian ace Adam Folkard had given up in the tournament, leaving the game wide open with three innings to play.
Nukunuku put his team in the box seat in the fifth, coming up with a high chopper up the middle to score captain Rhys Casley and leave the Black Sox six outs from victory.
Manley worked around an error in the sixth but put two men on to start the seventh and handed the ball to Hayes.
The world championship rookie allowed the tying run but emerged without any further damage to leave it at 3-3.
The bottom half of the inning saw the benches empty and a scuffle break out behind home plate when Folkard hit Patrick Shannon, but the Black Sox failed to land the knockout blow and the game went to a tie-break.
Hayes did his job with the ball in two tie-break frames, before Rona and Hale combined to end the epic game.
NZ 5 v Australia 4