NLEX left Phoenix on the ropes following a stunning 87-85 victory on Friday night for a joyful end to an otherwise damned PBA Commissioner's Cup campaigh at the Astrodome.
Already out of the playoff picture, the Road Warriors played a free-flowing game with nary a pressure, taking the initiative from the get-go before surviving a last-ditch comeback by the Fuel Masters.
The Road Warriors bowed out by winning two of their last three outings for a 3-8 record.
"It's nice to win. Kahit papaano may pabaon kaming panalo," said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, who never got to finish the game after he was ejected in the final 42 seconds.
"We survived a badly officiated game."
The lost was a costly one for the Fuel Masters, who fell to a 4-7 mark and in danger of dropping out of the quarterfinal race after suffering a third straight setback.
Trailing by as many as 20 early in the second half, Phoenix made a fight out of it, erasing a 73-82 deficit inside the final two minutes to threaten at 85-86 with eight seconds left on a three-pointer by RJ Jazul.
It was during that stretch when Guiao was called fot two technical fouls for excessive complaining that led to his ejection.
NLEX though finally shut the door on Phoenix as Jericho Cruz split his free throws and Matthew Wright missed a hurried three-point try at the buzzer.
"We'll take the win, however it is," added Guiao. "We'll take a short break and then start preparing for the next conference."
Import Olu Ashaolu had a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds but missed two pressure-packed free throws in the waning seconds that could have clinched the win outright for NLEX.
Jazul had 20 points to show the way for Phoenix, which also got 16 from Wright and 13 from Alex Mallari.
Richard Howell was held to just 11 points and eight rebounds as he was obviously favoring the hurting knee he injured in Phoenix's 128-108 loss to San Miguel the last time.
NLEX (87) - Ashaolu 17, Ighalo 14, Quinahan 9, Paniamogan 9, Erram 7, Cruz 6, Lao 5, Tiongson 5, Fonacier 5, Taulava 4, Soyud 4, Varilla 2, Baguio 0, Galanza 0.
Phoenix (85) - Jazul 20, Wright 16, Mallari 13, Howell 11, Intal 6, Marcelo 6, Perkins 2, Napoles 0, Wilson 0, Guevarra 0, Gamboa 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11; 45-32; 65-54; 87-85.