Sydney, January 2: Melbourne Stars overcame a dramatic late collapse to beat Sydney Thunder by three wickets at the Showground to replace their hosts at the top of the Big Bash League.
The Stars appeared to be coasting to victory as Marcus Stoinis and Nick Larkin piled on 123 for the second wicket in reply to Thunder's 142-7.
But Larkin hooked the returning Chris Morris (2-24) to Daniel Sams at fine leg to depart for a well-made 65, before Stoinis (58) chipped to mid-on from the final ball of the 17th over.
In the next set of six, left-arm seamer Sams (3-25) had Glenn Maxwell caught behind when trying to steer the ball fine and bowled Ben Dunk with his next delivery.
Melbourne were 133-5, having lost 4-10 off nine balls and, although a Sams bouncer on leg stump being harshly called a wide was punished by Nathan Coulter-Nile crunching the extra delivery down the ground for four, there would be a further twist.
More miserly work from Morris took the game into the final over and Nathan McAndrew followed Sams in putting himself on a hat-trick – removing Coulter-Nile before pinning new man Clint Hinchcliffe lbw.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who earlier took 1-33 from his allocation, held his nerve with the scores level and clipped the hat-trick ball through midwicket for the single required.
The Stars now have eight points at the summit, thanks to four wins and one defeat from their five matches, while the Thunder have seven points from six matches in third, having nudged below Adelaide Strikers on net run rate.
MAXWELL'S DOUBLE BLOW SETS UP STARS
Before that awful shot amid his side's nerve-jangled end to the match, captain Maxwell (2-17) helped to set up Melbourne's victory as his decision to open the bowling paid off.
The Thunder's average opening partnership this season heading into the clash was 40.4, but they found themselves 11-2 and with two of their best batsmen removed.
Off-spinner Maxwell bowled both Alex Hales (0) and Usman Khawaja (1) in the opening three overs and the Thunder were forced to play catch up.
RUTHLESS RAUF CONTINUES TO STAR
Haris Rauf (3-24) continued to take his chance for the Stars.
Back in the team, the paceman took his tally to 10 wickets this season while bowling 14 dot balls.
Rauf removed the competition's leading run-scorer this season, Callum Ferguson (19), and the dangerous Alex Ross, who top scored with 40.
LARKIN'S FIRST BBL FIFTY PROVES DECISIVE
The quality of Larkin's strokeplay, on a surface where most batsmen struggled for timing, should not be lost amid the chaotic finish to the match.
While Stoinis was more circumspect, the 29-year-old displayed some wonderful strokeplay during his 45-ball stay, which featured eight fours and a maximum and deservedly earned the man-of-the-match award.