Russia made nine of ten free throws in the final minute and five players scored in double figures as their team took a big step towards the semi-finals of the U18 European Championship Men with an 85-76 victory over Croatia.
Alexey Murychev collected 15 points and 13 rebounds and Vladimir Pichkurov scored 17 in handing Croatia their first loss of the tournament and improving their record to 3-1 in the Qualifying Round Group F.
The Russia win means that Group F is now wide open, with four teams still in with a chance to grab a semi-final spot. For Russia a victory against Latvia on Thursday will be enough to see them through. But Latvia also have a chance should they beat Russia and Croatia prevail against the French. The winner of the game between Croatia and France qualifies regardless of the result in the other game.
Maxim Grigoryev added 14 points for Alexey Vadeev's team while Pavel Antipov chipped in 12 and Sergey Palkin had 10.
Croatia dropped to 3-1 despite 20 points and eight rebounds by Mario Delas while Toni Prostran added 17 points and seven assists and Sven Smajlagic and Tomislav Zubcic each had 11 points.
Neither team gained an advantage early on until Russia missed six straight shots and Croatia were able to use a 10-2 run to open a 17-8 lead. Pichkurov helped bring Vadeev's team back and trail just 21-16 after one period.
Antipov came off the Russian bench and provided a spark while Murychev continued his fine play in the interior, giving Russia the lead 30-29 midway through the second. Evgeny Valiev's foul shot opened a 37-34 lead and Russia were ahead 43-41 going into the break.
Antipov hit consecutive three-balls and Grigoryev also connected from long range early in the third period as the Russian lead grew to 54-43. Zubcic and Josip Bilinovac brought Croatia to within 54-49 but Pichkurov and Antipov guided Vadeev's side to a 66-56 lead after three quarters.
The Russians would not let Croatia within six points until Ivan Batur's foul shot made it 76-71 with two minutes left. But Palkin, Pichkurov, Kirill Slepukha and Andrey Semenov all made both free throws in trips to the foul line in the final minute and Pichkurov made one-of-two with 13 seconds left.