Manchester Storm 4 Sheffield Steelers 5 - John Muse back as Steelers edge EIHL semi-final first leg
Sheffield Steelers take the narrowest of advantages into the EIHL play off semi final second leg on Thursday after beating Manchester Storm 5-4.
They are ahead after the first play off meeting, but not exactly in the driver's seat.
Twice they enjoyed a two-goal advantage and twice they saw it whittled down.
In fairness, they also hit the pipework twice.
Top-seeded Steelers, who restored import John Muse between the pipes after his recovery from injury, were without sniper Liam Kirk, who had failed to shrug off a back injury.
The late 8.30pm start wasn't perfect for either side but with a title at stake, nobody was complaining.
Storm coach Ryan Finnerty had "felt good" about his line-up and they matched Sheffield pace-for-pace and suffocated their offence in the early stages.
Steeler Josh Waller caught the eye with bursts of speed and Robert Dowd was always on the lookout to shoot and willing to defend with checks and blocks.
But it was first blood to Storm, with Maxime Fortier nipping behind Jérémy Beaudry and backhanding between Muse's legs.
It wasn't what 184-game AHL'er Muse would have wished for himself after missing all but half an hour of all the previous EIHL games.
Sheffield's forwards needed to penetrate the hard areas, something they hadn't seemed prepared to do, and too many face offs were being lost.
It was a defenceman who finally got into an dangerous, offensive area to convert.
Sam Jones, who had been aggressive at the back, surged forward into a pocket of space and picked his spot past Sean Bonar at 18:49 for 1-1.
Another d-man engineered Sheffield's go-ahead goal, Kevin Schulze's drive being re-directed by Tanner Eberle.
But Schulze went from hero to sinner, he lost the puck allowing a breakaway for Fortier to tie the first leg 2-2.
One Sheffield forward looking for change in luck was Soldre Olden.
He'd shot over, wide and then weakly into the netminder but then Josef Mikyska's pass put him one on one with the goalie.
After one touch to steady the puck, he rifled it home expertly for 3-2, at the midway point. It was pure class.
Bonar's post then prevented Eberle getting his second of the night.
But Sheffield's assertiveness was rewarded when a Jason Hewitt rebound was buried by Baudry for 4-2.
Frustratingly, they couldn't hold on to the two-goal advantage for long, French Canadian Fortier banging in his hat-trick.
It had been a highly-watchable, five-goal middle period.
A peach of a goal on a four on four play restored a two goal margin for Sheffield.
Beaudry set Dowd off down the left wing, he backhanded across the slot to Eberle for his second.
A goal of precision and beauty.
Yet again Sheffield couldn't hold the two-goal gap, with Jacob Lundell Noer scoring from close range, a minute later.
Sheffield hit the post in the final seconds.
The two sides resume hostilities at 7pm on Thursday.