Swindon Wildcats edged nearer to grabbing fifth place in the English Premier League from MK Lightning with a 3-2 victory at the Link Centre on Wednesday.
Once again Lightning gave the opposition a two goal start before starting to click into gear in the latter half of the game with two powerplay goals from Frankie Bakrlik.
Telford Tigers’ 7-1 demolition of Manchester Phoenix on the same night meant that they tightened their grip on fourth place with a game in hand on Lightning and five matches remaining.
The only crumb of comfort for the city side is the fact that if they and Swindon end level on points at the end of the campaign Lightning will edge in front on the aggregate scores between the two outfits - the series tied at three wins each.
Lightning drew the first penalty of the night at Swindon when Leigh Jamieson was sin binned after only 1min 38secs for tripping. With a man advantage Jan Kostal shot high and then wide while Aaron Nell’s effort was also off target.
Hat-trick hero Carlo Finucci went close to scoring before he put the home side in front after being set up by Jonas Hoog and Harvey Stead on 8mins 9secs.
Lightning were reduced to long range shots - Martti Jarventie twice and Michael Farn once - - trying their luck with efforts which were ever going to defeat a netminder of the quality of youngster Jordan Hedley.
Swindon ended the first period with just four shots on target while MK were unable to make anything of their 16 on goal.
Blaz Emersic tried to get MK off to a flying start in the middle period but his shot was stopped by Hedley before Nell saw his attempt saved by goalie Jordan Marr.
The second of two penalties on Markku Tahtinen, for hooking on 26mins 58secs, gave Swindon a powerplay from which Hoog and Nell were the suppliers for Finucci to make it 2-0 to the hosts.
At the mid point of the game coach Pete Russell called a time out and immediately MK tried to raise the pressure with Emersic shooting from the right ahead of a long Jamieson effort which went wide.
Swindon survived the first of two late period penalties on Nell for hooking but they eventually succumbed when Neil Liddiard was called for an identical offence at 36mins 58secs.
Emersic and Jordan Cownie had a hand when Bakrlik fired in at 38mins 14secs for a powerplay strike which gave Lighting hope going into the final 20 minutes.
That optimism was dampened as Finucci complete his hat trick with assistance from Hoog and Corey McEwen at 47mins 22secs.
Lightning once again narrowed the gap to a single goal after Kostal was penalised for hooking, thanks once again to Bakrlik’s second powerplay goal on 53mins 2secs - aided by Cownie and Jarventie.
It was the last time Lightning were to have any joy in front of the Swindon net with the hosts maintaining the 3-2 score to the buzzer.