Acting Hawthorn coach Brendon Bolton has been spared a humiliating AFL coaching debut by the width of the goalpost.
Two of Greater Western Sydney’s last-quarter shots on Sunday hit the post to deny the Giants a famous victory as the Hawks prevailed 14.10 (94) to 13.9 (87) at the MCG.
At fulltime it was hard to tell from the body language which team had won and which team had lost.
The wooden spooners, unrecognisable from the side that were thrashed by Richmond just a week earlier, gave the premiers an almighty fright, out-running and out-tackling the Hawks.
When Jack Gunston kicked Hawthorn’s first goal, roving a stoppage just one minute into the game, it seemed as though the struggling Giants would be given another footy lesson.
But an instant reply by Jonathan Patton laid the groundwork for an almighty battle.
If anything, it was the Hawks who were taken to school by a hungrier side.
Led by Lachie Whitfield and Devon Smith, the Giants kicked four of the next five goals to eke out a deserved 13-point lead.
The Hawks looked down and out, fumbling possession and indecisive in defence.
Bolton would have his first chance at an AFL coaching spray at quarter-time, which would have been richly deserved.
Hawthorn – missing Sam Mitchell, Cyril Rioli, Brian Lake, Josh Gibson and late withdrawals Jordan Lewis and Ben Stratton – would surely kick free.
It wasn’t to be.
Dylan Shiel kickstarted the Giants with an early goal and it was on again.
The two sides went goal for goal in the third term before goals from Rhys Palmer and Smith put the Giants 11 points clear.
The Hawks responded through Jack Gunston and Isaac Smith to take a one-point lead into the last change.
Still the Hawks could not find relief in a see-sawing final term.
But with the help of the goalposts, the Hawks crawled over the line in a frantic final term.
Both Jed Lamb and Jeremy Cameron were denied by the posts in an agonising finish, which included Patton missing from just 15 metres out in front.
Hawthorn may have reclaimed second place on the ladder, but far from the expected percentage boost.