34 points from up-and-coming star Nikita Shabalkin were not enough for CSK-VVS Samara to defeat Pizza Express Apollon Limassol in game one of their EuroCup Challenge semi-final.
Instead it was home side Limassol who sneaked a 77-75 victory inside the final minute and will take a two-point lead into the second game in Samara on 8th March.
The 21-year old Shabalkin kept his side in contention almost single-handedly in the first half. He hit nine of his first 10 field goal attempts for 24 points as Limassol took a 44-40 lead into the break.
A 12-4 run saw Limassol take a double digit lead midway through the third quarter, but thanks to some strong inside play from center Taras Osipov (eight points in four minutes), Samara cut the lead to three points at the start of the final quarter (61-58).
An Evgeny Voronov dunk plus foul then tied the scores at 61-61.
It was then back to Limassol as the Cypriot side reeled off eight straight points to go back in front, 69-61.
After a lay-up from Kelvin Gibbs, Shabalkin got back on the scoresheet with a three-pointer. Omar Cook split a pair from the line and a lay-up from Shabalkin saw Samara pull to within one point, 70-69, with three minutes to play.
Both teams traded free throws before Shabalkin struck again, converting a lay-up plus foul and free throw to give Samara a 73-71 advantage.
Shabalkin turned from hero to villain on the next play when his turnover gifted Limassol two free throws, and Earnest Shelton duly tied the game.
A second turnover from Shabalkin gave Limassol another opportunity at the line and Johnathan Oden obliged with two free throws to give the home side a 75-73 lead.
With just 10 seconds to play, Gibbs missed a lay-up forcing Samara to foul. Sheldon took advantage once again and Limassol increase the lead to four points, 77-73.
Shabalkin, however, was not quite done and his dunk inside the last 10 seconds cut the deficit to just two points for the final score 77-75.
Aleksandar Damjanovic led Limassol with 20 points while Shabalkin finished with impressive 14/15 from the field for his 34 points.