Tanya Chirov scored seven of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night as Bulgaria claimed a heart-stopping 74-70 triumph over Belgium.
In the first EuroBasket Women 2009 qualifying game for both sides, the Belgians came from 10 points down in the third quarter to twice go in front.
Bulgaria got their noses back in front in the fourth, only for Belgium to hang around and almost win at the end.
A Laurence Van Malderen jump shot for Belgium closed the gap to 72-70 with 19 seconds left.
After Evelina Guneva missed two free throws for Bulgaria, the Belgians looked for a game-tying, or game-winning basket but Sofie Hendrickx was called for travelling.
Bulgaria got two more free throws from guard Diana Naydenova-Goryanova to clinch a four-point win.
Belgium, playing without star center Ann Wauters, enjoyed a fine start to the game with Marjorie Carpréaux's lay-up giving them a 21-16 lead late in the first quarter.
Bulgaria hit back.
Naydenova-Goryanova had two three-pointers in the second quarter and Chirov's lay-up took her points haul to 14 as Bulgaria took a 42-36 advantage to the changing rooms.
Bulgaria maintained the momentum after the restart.
A pair of Chirov free throws made it 46-36 and Nikolay Boroukov's team was still on top at 50-42 after a layup by Milena Tomova.
That's when Belgium came to life.
Sara Leemans sank a jump shot and Carpréaux made a lay-up before Van Malderen drilled a three-pointer to close the gap to one.
Kathy Wambe's two shots at the charity stripe capped the 9-0 run and put Belgium in front at 51-50.
When Chirov sank two more at the line, Ivelina Vrantcheva connected on a jump shot and Tomova added another layup, Bulgaria were in front at 58-53.
Belgium refused to go away.
Anke De Mondt's second three-pointer of the fourth quarter knotted the scores at 63-63 with 2:42 to go.
Two Chirov free throws shortly after put the Bulgarians back on top and they stayed in front the rest of the way though Belgium did have a chance to tie or go in front at the end before Hendrickx was whistled for travelling and her team's 20th turnover of the game.
Bulgaria did much of their damage at the free throw line, making 28 of 36 (77.7%).
Evelien Callens and Wambe both fouled out in the final 30 seconds of the contest.
Chirov also had seven rebounds, three assists and came up with three steals in a virtuoso performance.
Guneva had 16 points and six rebounds, while Tomova weighed in with 12 and nine.
Naydenova-Goryanova also poured in 10 points and handed out six assists for the winners.
Van Malderen and Leemans, two members of the Belgium side that competed at last year's EuroBasket Women in Italy, scored 16 apiece in a losing effort.
Callens also had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Nikolay Boroukov, Head Coach of Bulgaria:
"I am not satisfied. I expected better play from our leaders. The girls are obviously tired. One of the reasons is that 4 or 5 of them are ill and had stomach problems. That was the reason I had to use more players on the foor. The best thing is that we won. We made so many mistakes on both sides of the floor. We were quite numbed. I am satisfied with Ekaterina Dimitrova, Tanya Chirov and Diana Naydenova. I don't know why we were so tensed at home. Some of the players were nervous, because it is their first time as leaders in the national team. Now we are thinking for the game with Greece. I hope we will play with less tension. It will be a tough game. But I hope we will play our game and won't make so many missed shots and mistakes."
Olaf Stolz, Head Coach of Belgium:
"It was a very hard and tough loss for us. We didn't find our rhythm during the game. The firs quarter we always have been in penetration and we were not ready for this. At the end we had the chance to come back. The victory is for Bulgaria because they played better than us. I think they had better attitude especially on defense. It should be more closer game. We have young player, who need experience. They made some mistakes, but it is normal. We came in Samokov to win the game, but we didn't. I expect
very hard fight in the next games. The other two teams are strong too. We just have now to turn back ant to forget this lost."