Victoria's hopes of extending their three-year dominance of the Sheffield Shield seemed dead and buried a month ago but a tense 23-run win over NSW continued a dramatic turnaround for the Bushrangers.
NSW were on track for a famous victory as they chased 309 on a challenging Junction Oval batting wicket, after they began day four at 2-150.
With Moises Henriques (49) and Peter Nevill (26) at the crease the Blues were marching toward a much-needed win, before Fawad Ahmed had his say.
NSW, at one stage, required just 35 runs with four wickets in hand, only for legspinner Ahmed to run through the tail and earn figures of 5-94.
"We knew that if we got a new batter on that wicket, especially against Fawad who is so dangerous against the tail, we would have a great advantage," Victoria captain Aaron Finch said.
"(Peter) Siddle and (Scott) Boland were exceptional early in controlling the run rate and we didn't get rewards early, but we got them late."
Victoria resumed after the mid-season break last on the Shield standings but have jumped to second with one round of matches remaining.
NSW, conversely, have slipped from top spot after a winless run in the past four matches.
Victoria are chasing a rare fourth-straight title and Finch believes his side have found form at the right end of the season, after four home draws on the lifeless MCG pitch earlier in the summer.
"The rewards are coming for us at this end of the season," he said.
"We are starting to play a lot better cricket, this game and last game.
"It has been simple plans and hard graft from our players."
Defeat effectively ends NSW's Shield hopes, barring an unlikely series of results.
It comes despite bowling out Victoria on day one for just 199, as spinner Steve O'Keefe took career-best figures of 8-77 and a 10-wicket match haul.
NSW had little luck on the final day with opener Daniel Hughes dismissed hit-wicket for 59, while Kurtis Patterson was run out for 53 thanks to brilliant fielding from Glenn Maxwell.
Ahmed said Victoria are "absolutely" pushing for more Shield glory..
"We played some good cricket in these past few games and hopefully we can continue this momentum," he said.
"We have a really good side and a good mix (of players). We are on a roll now."
Victoria can still overhaul leaders Queensland and earn hosting rights for the final.
If they do so, they will have the opportunity to play at the newly-redeveloped Junction Oval, having taken their past two finals to Alice Springs.
Australian Associated Press