The Otago Sparks let opportunity slip against the Northern Spirit as round two of the Women's T20 was fought at Lincoln.
Northern Spirit's 135 for four should have been within the Sparks' reach, but when the top order failed to fire in response, it was left to Victoria Abbott and Bella James to try to rescue the southerners.
They very nearly did, coming up just three agonising runs short as the Sparks licked their wounds from having lost regular wickets.
It was a much-needed boost for the Spirit, Caitlin Gurrey top-scoring with 47 from 42 balls at the top. Captain Brooke Halliday kept the momentum going with an undefeated 28, and Natalie Dodd chipped in with 14 from 13 deliveries.
The classy Morna Nielsen had been frugal as always with the ball, taking one for 19 from four overs, while fellow WHITE FERNS spinner Leigh Kasperek picked up two for 27.
Suzie Bates had made 25 at the top of the order in the chase, then Abbott whacked 36 from 21 and James added 15 in a stand of 37 that offered hope, but not salvation.