A Jhaniele Fowler goal on the siren has handed reigning Super Netball premiers West Coast Fever a dramatic 62-61 victory over Melbourne Vixens in a high-quality start to the new season.
The rematch between last season's grand finalists at Perth's RAC Arena went down to the wire before Fowler capped a 55-goal effort with the game-winning shot as time expired to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
With Australian Diamonds defender Jo Weston (calf) and Rahni Samason (leg) missing through injury, the Vixens faced a tough task to topple the defending champions but fought back from a six-goal deficit to draw level in a thrilling final quarter.
A two-point goal from Melbourne attacker Kiera Austin tied the score at 61-61 with 40 seconds to play but the Fever held their nerve in the dying seconds as they allowed the clock to run down before finding Fowler under the post to seal the victory.
"It was very intense ... good job by the Vixens because they really brought it to us in that last five to ten minutes of the game but congrats to my girls, we held on and did not let it get to us," Fowler said.
Taking charge of the Vixens for the 150th time as head coach, Simone McKinnis shuffled her regular midcourt lineup to help cover the loss of Weston with Hannah Mundy earning a start in wing attack.
Fowler imposed her will on the opening quarter with a 16-goal start to help the Fever create a 17-12 buffer, Austin managing to avoid another injury for Melbourne despite appearing to twist her ankle in an awkward fall.
McKinnis brought former West Coast defender Liv Lewis into the contest in the second quarter and the move paid dividends as the Vixens made an 8-3 start to draw level before the aerial strength of Courtney Bruce halted Melbourne's momentum.
The Fever went into halftime ahead 32-28 thanks to a combination of wayward Vixens shooting (80 per cent in the first half) and converting all five gains into goals.
The Vixens made a late run in the third quarter to reduce West Coast's lead to 48-46 but their hopes of a famous road win looked dashed when defender Emily Mannix left the court early in the final period due to a head knock.
But Mannix was able to return to the action and both teams went goal for goal through the tense final minutes before Fowler broke Melbourne's hearts with her match-sealing goal.