SINGAPORE - Trailing 64-57 in the final quarter, the Singapore Slingers dug deep and launched their fightback.
With less than four minutes left on the clock, a brilliant tip by captain Ng Han Bin saw the Slingers go 69-68 up - the first time they had the lead over the Formosa Dreamers since the first quarter of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) game on Sunday (Nov 18).
That got the 1,800 crowd at the OCBC Arena into a frenzy as they tried to roar the team to victory.
It was neck-and-neck in the final minutes as both teams exchanged the lead and, with 36 seconds left, the Dreamers were in the driver's seat with the score at 74-73.
But, with the Slingers in possession, there was every chance they could snatch victory at the death.
However, it was not to be for Neo Beng Siang's team as they failed to capitalise on their possession and suffered a heartbreaking 77-73 loss in their 2018-2019 ABL season-opener.
Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson believes his team paid the price for poor rebounding and defending in the final few minutes, but added that a "big factor" was the missed lay-ups.
"We got open, got under the rim and just blew lay-ups and we can't do that," said the Australian.
"We've got to convert most of those. I think we probably missed 15 to 16 lay-ups, (which) equate to 30 to 32 points and that's huge."
The Slingers made just 28 out of 71 of their field goals (39.4 per cent), with Xavier Alexander top-scoring for the team with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
The other imports, Jerran Young and John Fields, contributed 20 and 12 points respectively.
The Dreamers, who won just one game in their debut 2017-2018 season, are led by new American coach Dean Murray this term and their playing roster is strengthened with American imports Malcolm Miller, Tevin Glass and William Artino.
The trio combined for 58 of the Dreamers' 77 points, led by forward Tevin's 24.
The Slingers did well to end the first quarter level with the Taiwanese franchise at 19-19, but could not raise their game in the next two quarters as they trailed by as many as nine points at one stage.
Johnson added: "It's disappointing because we gave them eight- and nine-point leads and we used so much energy getting back in.
"I think that's what (also) caused us to trip."
Despite the loss, shooting guard Ng said the team were still determined to win their first ABL championship.
"We always want to start the season with a win - it's just that, sometimes, things don't go our way for a reason," said the 29-year-old.
"We won't let one setback affect our ability to do it (winning the championship).
"We'll move on from here and see how we can improve our game and go towards our goal."
The Slingers, who finished as runners-up during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons, will next play Thai franchise Mono Vampire Basketball Club at Stadium 29 in Bangkok on Wednesday (Nov 21).
They then face the Westports Malaysia Dragons, whom they lost to in the 2015-2016 ABL Finals, at the OCBC Arena on Friday (Nov 23).