North Ballarat's undefeated record remains intact after the league leaders came from behind to salvage a draw in the biggest challenge of its premiership defence to date.
The Roosters trailed at every break, before putting on an 11-goal final quarter to level the score at 44-44 and hand Melton South its second draw of the season.
North Ballarat coach Annie McCartin believed it would be a defining game for her group.
"I know it was a draw, but to us, it was a win," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"(Melton South) had control for the whole of the four quarters until it came down to the last few minutes. Our girls really dug deep to make it a draw, and I'm so proud of them.
"I feel when we reflect back, we will realise this was the game that made us stronger and more resolute.
"Going into finals, this will be the game that built us as a team."
Melton South wrestled control of the match early, using physicality and pressure in defence to upset the visitors.
Sharp shooting from Rhys Carter Coleman (16 goals at 85 per cent) handed the Panthers a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
North Ballarat was able to work its way back into the contest, winning the second quarter 13-11, to cut the deficit back to three goals.
"They came out pretty hard in that first quarter, and when you first play a team, it takes a little while to work things out," McCartin said.
"They move the ball around; they've got some lovely players there. But they had very physical defenders playing on our goalies.
"We had to work hard to get the ball into them, and we had to be disciplined to get right onto the edge of the circle and feed the ball in."
A drawn third quarter meant the visitors entered the last term with work to do.
Madison Selmon (36 goals at 86 per cent) stood up for her side, while star inclusion Maggie Caris thrived at the defensive end.
The result sees Melton South drop from second to third on the ladder after East Point picked up points from the bye this weekend.
Lake Wendouree rounds out the top four after restricting Darley to the lowest team score of the season.
The Lakers defence was resolute and methodical in the emphatic 43-18 win.
Sebastopol and Redan remain in the other finals spots, having enjoyed big victories at the weekend.
The Lions extended Sunbury's losing streak to eight games with a 68-26 romp, led by young goalie Mackenzie Nicholson (54 goals at 85 per cent).
The Burra also fired in attack, shooting at 75 per cent to secure a 50-29 win against Bacchus Marsh.
Sebastopol 50 def Bacchus Marsh 29
Melton 49 def Ballarat 47
Lake Wendouree 43 def Darley 18
Melton South 44 drew North Ballarat 44
Redan 68 def Sunbury 26
A GRADE LADDER
North Ballarat, 8, 0, 1, 34
East Point, 6, 2, 28
Melton South, 5, 1, 2, 28
Lake Wendouree, 5, 3, 24
Sebastopol, 5, 3, 24
Redan, 4, 3, 1, 22
Ballarat, 4, 5, 16
Darley, 3, 5, 12
Melton, 3, 5, 12
Bacchus Marsh, 0, 8, 4
Sunbury, 0, 8, 4