DAR Kulaib last night drew first blood in the Top Six round-robin phase of the Bahraini Volleyball League Division One with a thrilling 18-25, 25-20, 25-14, 21-25, 26-24 win over Al Najma.
It was a cracking start to what is the business end to the campaign, with both teams went hell-for-leather for the much-sought-after first-up win.
In the end though, it was a composed rather than world-beating performance from Dar Kulaib, aided by something of a capitulation by their opponents in the third set that handed victory their way.
With both the league meetings between these two having gone the way of the home side, there was little to choose between them going into last night's match at the Bahraini Volleyball Association complex in Riffa.
The opening exchanges didn't make that choice any easier as both sides went almost score-for-score in a period in which there was never more than two points between them.
At 17-15 in front however, Al Najma produced a blistering late rally to take eight of the next 11 points and put Dar Kulaib to the sword; the 25-18 set-winning scoreline perhaps a little unfair on the losers.
Dar Kulaib responded excellently in the second set however as, having conceded the first three points, they went on to take an early advantage and managed to keep their noses in front through another titanic tussle.
The third set bucked the trend of the others in that was easily the most one-sided affair of the contest, as Al Najma switched into self-destruct mode.
After watching Dar Kulaib build up an early 8-4 lead, an increasing amount of frustration began seeping through the Al Najma ranks and with that, came a worrying number of unforced errors.
As that error count grew, so too did the Dar Kulaib lead, until an uncharacteristic missed serve by American professional Geoff Ptak, typifying Al Najma's frame-of-mind at the time, closed out the set to the sound of a 25-14 Dar Kulaib win.
From the disappointment of that third set, Al Najma roared back into life in the fourth and produced an inspired performance to secure a 25-21 set win and send the match to what a short time earlier seemed an unlikely deciding set.
With the pep firmly back in their step, the resurgent Al Najma looked to carry their momentum through to victory but Dar Kulaib had ideas of their own.
What followed though was a battle of monumental proportions that saw a remarkable ten match-points for the two sides go a-begging before Dar Kulaib finally came up with the winning play at 25-24 in front.
The Top Six round robin phase of the Bahraini Volleyball League continues over the next four weeks before the grand final at the end of May.