Nick Riewoldt ran Michael Hurley ragged to lead St Kilda to an upset 16-point AFL win over Essendon on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.
Riewoldt booted five goals and dominated proceedings, spearheading a spirited Saints second-quarter comeback to set up the 11.15 (81) to 9.11 (65) victory.
The Saints entered three-quarter time with a 10-point lead, and Riewoldt was one of four players to miss shots at goal in a frenzied start to the final term.
But with the Bombers lacking legs after a six-day turnaround that followed a testing game against Fremantle in the heat of Perth, St Kilda seized control of the contest.
Adam Schneider found himself in a paddock of space in the forward line after coming onto the ground and made the most of it, kicking the first of three goals in five minutes for the Saints.
Brent Stanton kicked two quick majors for the Bombers in response, but they ran out of time and will enter Anzac Day as staunch underdogs against an in-form Collingwood.
Essendon managed just four goals after quarter-time, while the Saints looked a different side to that which was thumped by Adelaide at the same ground six days earlier.
For all the Saints’ downfalls and inexperience – which were laid bare in the opening term as Essendon strolled to a 18-point lead at the first break – they possess an inspirational captain whose strength remains gut-busting runs.
And so it showed in the second quarter. The 31-year-old in his 14th season outworked his 23-year-old opponent to boot two goals and help level the scores at the major break.
Riewoldt started the third term by outpositioning Hurley to mark and kick another goal. Soon after, he clutched a fine contested mark from a rainmaker and again kicked truly.
As fellow veterans Lenny Hayes and Leigh Montagna lifted after halftime – the midfielders tallied a combined 21 touches in the third term – there were all the makings of a boilover at three-quarter time.
Hayes finished with a game-high 32 possessions.