The main ABDA battle line carried on forward still hell bent on breaking the Japanese middle and heading for the invasion convoy over the horizon. The two IJN heavy cruisers had other ideas and would die if need be before deserting their charges. All gunfire was now horizontal rather than arced and there was nowhere to hide, things would be settled quickly. The IJNS Nachi views the closing ABDA battle-line.
As a preliminary to the main event the screeching and rending of metal on metal denoted a glancing blow on the USS Houston from the ram attack of a Japanese destroyer. Annoyingly for ABDA the USS Houston sustained machinery damage to a fore turret, incrementally bad but not immediately effecting the Houston's fire power. The heroic but crazed Japanese destroyer received relatively minor hull damage and still possessed enough movement to attempt a ram on the following ADBA cruiser the Dutch Java. The Dutchman evaded this but was induced to reduce the destroyer to a flaming wreck by gunfire (see below, ABDA cruiser line at bottom) rather than risk another ram.
Meanwhile the De Ruyter settled beneath the waves and HMS Exeter edged past the sinking Dutch destroyer Kortenaer, Exeter herself was in a very bad way. The IJNS light cruiser Naka turned to bring in the Second Destroyer flotilla, First Division on the now exposed starboard side of the ABDA line. This line of destroyers could bring significant fire power to bear if it managed to close the distance.
The First Flotilla's move brought them into contact with the US WWI era destroyer flotilla, who pressed home an unexpected and unwelcome attack (from the Japanese point of view) on the IJNS Naka (see below).
Back at the head of the ABDA line the Japanese destroyers crossing the ABDA "T" reversed their course 180 degrees to avoid fouling the IJNS Hagero's line of fire. This also wrought the end of HMS Jupiter under withering 5 inch gunfire (below right hand side).
To the man event. The IJNS Nachi (CA) versus USS Houston (CA) traded deadly body blows, Nachi losing another turret and Houston taking a turret hit and hull damage, slowing her slightly. At the van, HMAS Perth (CL) now "rapid firing" took on the IJNS Hagero (CA). The Perth was straddled but miraculously did not receive a direct hit, in return she both straddled and hurt the Hagero, disabling a turret and stopping her dead in the water (a mere half hull box remaining). Who would break first?
A brusque Australian comment from the bridge of HMAS Perth summed the situation up: "Good shooting Guns, now put your bloody fish in the water and sink something". Simultaneously Japanese Long Lance 24" and WWI era US 18" torpedoes as well as RAN 21" torpedoes entered the water as compressed air lines hissed.
Next: White lines of death