SINGAPORE's netballers let slip a six-point, third-quarter lead to draw 35-35 with key rivals Malaysia yesterday at the OCBC Arena.
The Asian champions were unable to hold on despite starting well and leading 30-24 after three quarters, as Malaysia roared back when goal shooter Charmaine Soh missed four shots in succession in the final quarter.
They drew the game with four minutes to go and celebrated with huge cheers at the final whistle, while the Singapore team trudged disconsolately to their bench.
The draw means Malaysia lead Singapore on goal difference at the top of the round-robin table after three games.
With both sides favoured to win their remaining two games, this match was seen as a preview of the gold-medal showdown.
Singapore's head coach Ruth Aitken dismissed the notion that her side threw the game away, saying: "I think Malaysia put some great pressure on, full credit to them. We got some good balls defensively too but didn't convert it through the points.
"No one ever likes not to win, but it's the battle not the war, so it's how we respond...after disappointment."
Singapore's shooters were way off the mark, with Soh and goal attack Chen Huifen combining for 64 per cent goal accuracy, compared to Malaysia's 77 per cent.
Soh admitted things could have gone better, and said: "We need to improve in tomorrow's game and learn to be patient and not become complacent."
Malaysian captain Yap Suo Kuen credited her team's mental strength for the comeback, which will yield a psychological boost.
"Normally, we lose to Singapore, especially in the past few years, so this is the first step," she said. "The next step is to get the gold medal."
Veteran Premila Hirubalan became the second Singaporean netballer to earn 100 caps.
Said the 32-year-old: "If they're happy with a draw and we're not, it means we want the win so it's a good thing that they are chasing us.
"They will come at us with everything but we have enough guns to give them a good fight in the final."