The Lizards struggled to put distance between themselves and the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the first half, but a dominant third quarter gave them the cushion necessary to get a victory and reclaim first place in Major League Lacrosse Thursday night.

After leading by four goals at the half, the Lizards rolled in the third, outscoring the Bayhawks by four goals in opening an eight-goal advantage.

That third quarter showing was enough to pace the Lizards to an 18-12 win at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. The victory moved the Lizards (8-4) a half game ahead of the second-place Bayhawks (8-5).

“It’s critical because we’re right down to crunch time,” Paul Rabil said. “We had a lot of energy in that first quarter, so that set the tone.”

The victory was the 41st for Lizards coach Joe Spallina, who took over first place on the team’s alltime list, breaking a three-way tie with John DeTomasso and Jim Mule.

Rabil had six goals and two assists and Rob Pannell added four goals and two assists to a solid that attack that had struggled in previous games.

“I think the guys have done a better job preparing for games, watching a lot of game film,” Spallina said. “I think that there’s a lot of pride. I think you’re starting to see the champion of this team emerge.”

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With the Lizards leading 10-8 and less than two minutes to play in the second quarter, JoJo Marasco and Rabil netted goals in a 12-second span to double the advantage. After the break, the Lizards came out firing with unanswered goals from Pannell, Rabil and Dave Lawson, respectively, putting away the Bayhawks.

The win was significant for the Lizards, especially after losing three of their previous four games.

Said Spallina: “You don’t always want it to be clear sailing because you have to be able to deal with some adversity.”