It doesn't get better than this. Spain and Russia clashing in the pool. They had a night-long thriller in Sydney in 2000 in the Olympic semifinal when so much extra time was played that both teams lost the medal matches the next day.
Tonight, in front of more than 3000 screaming fans, Spain raced to a 3-0 lead but saw that lead chiselled away by Russia, the world No 1. It was 4-2 at the quarter and 5-5 at halftime. At three quarters, Russia led 7-6. But then the tide turned and the Spanish Armada set sail with three straight goals for a 9-7 lead. Russia pulled one back but following a melee when Daniel Ballart came under close scrutiny by his opponent and much of the rest of the Russian team, Salvador Gomez converted the extra man for the 10-8 victory.
With the win comes almost certainly the top spot in the group and advancement to the quarter-finals.
The stage is set for some excellent men's matches in the final preliminary round at CN Barcelona.
All other groups will have big matches to decide top placing.
In Group A, Hungary appeared to struggle through the first three quarters against Romania before producing a trademark flourish in the final seven minutes to win 9-5 going away. The early part of the game elicited just two goals each but Hungary broke through for a 4-3 lead going into the last. The floodgates then opened as three straight goals undid the hard work of Romania. There were still two goals for each team to come but that earlier burst proved the difference. Romania will prove to be tough opponents for the coming matches.
In Group B, Tony Azevedo continued his outstanding form with four goals as the United States of America thumped Japan 14-4. The North Americans worked hard throughout, necessarily so as the faster Japanese proved troublesome with some sharp goals.
Serbia & Montenegro repelled the Australian challenge by a single goal (7-6) in a game where the European champions gave up four penalty shots. Former Ukrainian Aleksandr Osadchuk scored the first three but had the fourth blocked as Australia climbed back from 4-6 down to level the game three minutes from time.
However, Vanya Udovicic gained the win with an unguarded shot from the top 2:40 from time. Of the four penalty attempts, Serbia & Montenegro captain Vladimir Vujasinovic said: "In my opinion, the referees were right and we cannot afford all those penalties."
In Group C, Italy gained a second victory to head the group, downing Germany 11-8 in a riveting game. Italy was never headed but only led 5-3 at halftime. A 4-2 third period was enough to keep the Germans at bay. Tobias Kreuzmann scored three for Germany while Italy had five double scorers. Greece made sure of second spot with a 17-2 romp over China. The goals just kept coming with 19-year-old Christos Afroudakis and Ioannis Thomakos scoring three each.
In Group D, Slovakia and Brazil provided a thriller, with youth playing a part in the shape of 17-year-old Felipe Perrone of Brazil, scoring twice. But it was Slovakia's game despite the scores being locked 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 in the early stages. Slovakia won 7-4 and stands in the way of Spain come Friday.