It was a much-needed win for Thunder after a difficult couple of weeks, and with Bradford Dragons and Medway Park Crusaders losing as well, Worthing go into fourth place in the table, behind Leicester Warriors, while Derby Trailblazers’ win sees them leapfrog Bristol at the top.
While Thunder turned the ball over 20 times in the game, it was a much-improved Worthing side from the past three encounters.
They forced the reigning league champions into an equal number of turnovers, were solid defensively and played as a team for the full 40 minutes on court.
Americans Hank Rivers and Marcus Tullis both poured in 20 points with the latter adding 12 rebounds to his name.
Captain James Brame and Courtney Small added 10 points each and new signing Bud Johnston scored eight on his return from a career-threatening leg injury.
Brame said: “It was a great win for us, and, well, what can I say? A great team performance.
“We played hard for 40 minutes and had a really good team ethic with only seven players because of injuries as Adam Martin and Vinnie Darpino were both out.
“And they hadn’t lost at home all season so it’s a first for them, but hats off to them they are a very good side. We were up 10 in the closing stages and they came back and nearly took it.
“We knew it had not been happening for us since the Christmas break. We came back in the new year and had not been playing well at all.
“We were under-achieving and there was a lack of heart, effort and commitment, and we had been working hard in practice to get that back and get the intensity higher.
“Going into this, we knew we always get up for the big games and Bristol are the ones to beat. It is wrong of us, but if we play how we did on Saturday we can beat any side.
“It’s about taking that into every game. We have proved we can beat the number one team, we need to take that into every week now.”
Davis Bowne led Bristol with 21 points and 12 rebounds that got things going to give Bristol first blood, but it turned out to be a rare lead for the hosts.
Thunder led 16-15 at the end of the first period, while Jack Sunderland extended Thunder’s lead to start the second quarter off a steal, and the visitors extended their advantage after a cold spell from both sides, thanks to a three from Johnston, and the visitors still had a 32-29 lead at half-time.
Bristol stayed with Thunder in the third, making sure they kept in touch heading to the final period when Thunder were 48-43 ahead.
In the closing minutes of the contest, Thunder enjoyed their biggest lead of the game at 11 points, as Worthing had held Bristol scoreless for nearly three minutes.
But Bristol came fighting back and Thunder were made to sweat it out in the closing stages.
Thunder host Medway Park at the Leisure Centre on Saturday. Tip-off is 7.30pm.