By Murray Wenzel, Pagemasters
Melbourne kept their NBL finals dream alive and crushed Cairns' hopes with a thrilling 66-64 win in the Far North on Friday night.
The game was in the balance in the final quarter and in the end it was the red-hot Chris Goulding (25 points) who made the crucial basket.
He got his chance after a cruel offensive foul on Alex Loughton was called just as the Taipans were mounting a play to win the game.
With star Tiger Jonny Flynn injured on the sidelines, Goulding was outstanding for the Tigers, continually blowing past the Cairns defence to the hoop.
Their efforts on the boards were also crucial, leading offensive boards 14-3 at the final break.
While Goulding was able to silence the 5000 devoted Snakes fans with that skill, it looked like Cairns may slide away victorious despite his heroics.
Cam Tragardh (11 points) and Shane Edwards (15 points) gave Cairns a bright start, two massive jams from Edwards the highlight of an otherwise grinding first half.
The Tigers refused to give in, however, keeping their noses in front througout.
Starting the final term down two, Cairns pushed ahead thanks to triples from Loughton (15 points) and Aaron Grabau.
When Grabau dived for a crucial loose-ball get, the noise levels increased and it looked like the Taipans would ride it home.
But Goulding capped off a night of brilliant one-on-one moves with yet another drive to the basket the Cairns' defence had no answer for, and Melbourne's defence held firm on the final play.
The Taipans season is now over, while Melbourne must beat Townsville and hope Adelaide can upset the Hawks.
Melbourne Tigers 66 (Goulding 25, Burston 13, Scott 12)
Cairns Taipans 64 (Edwards 15, Loughton 15)
Crowd: 4932 at Cairns Convention Centre