Edinburgh Monarchs boost Championship play-off hopes with hard-fought victory over Plymouth Gladiators
The Edinburgh Monarchs have one wheel in the end-of-season playoffs after a nerve-jangling 48-42 victory over the Plymouth Gladiators.
After a rather subdued opening couple of heats, the quality on the shale really accelerated as the meeting wore on with the Monarchs finally getting themselves over the line following a last-heat decider.
There was no hangover from last weekend's Jubilee League defeat to arch-rivals the Glasgow Tigers as the Capital outfit underlined their intentions to finish the season on a high - their last of the Armadale era.
The Monarchs were again without skipper and talisman Sam Masters, who underwent surgery on a broken shoulder in Poland this week. Speedway riders are made of the strong stuff and Masters himself hasn't ruled out riding at the Championship pairs at Oxford next Friday.
Poole Pirates' Richard Lawson stepped in for the 31-year-old Australian and he took the first chequered flag of the evening, followed home by team-mate Norwegian Lasse Fredriksen for a welcome 5-1.
However, the visitors returned the compliment in heat three as impressive teenager Leon Flint and Michael Palm-Toft outgated Monarchs pairing Kye Thomson and Paco Castagna.
Heat nine saw a right ding-dong battle between Thomson, Castagna and lone Gladiator - and former Grand Prix star - Hans Andersen, Thomson showing his track craft to reel in Andersen before Castagna tried his luck at passing the Dane. However, he couldn't land a blow and the Monarchs had to settle for a 4-2. The home side led 30-24, but it was far from comfortable.
The Devon outfit, who are also play-off-bound, were still within a shout of a losing bonus point with just three heats remaining and that became a distinct possibility when Andersen and Flint teamed up for a 4-2 to move to within four points of their opponents. A second consecutive 4-2 had the Gladiators targeting a win outright with Monarchs' lead now slashed to two ahead of the final four laps of the evening.
But Thomson and Lawson duly delivered a 5-1 maximum to seal all three points, the Gladiators deservedly picking up a hard-fought point.
Thomson, who finished with 11, said: "It wasn't looking too good for me in my first race snapping the chain but I managed to turn my night around. It was a hard win."