A statement needed to be made, but instead the Gold Coast only raised more questions over their AFL finals credentials without injured skipper Gary Ablett.
The battling Western Bulldogs kicked six unanswered goals in the final term to score a comfortable 13.16 (94) to 9.12 (66) win over the Suns in Cairns on Saturday.
Dual Brownlow Medallist Ablett was ruled out for the rest of the season this week after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction with his side clutching onto eighth spot.
The 14th-placed Bulldogs were keen to make the most of it, Jack Macrae proving a big factor in the last term with two majors.
For three quarters it had been an arm-wrestle, heavy on spite and light on structure with the Gold Coast’s Zac Smith and the Bulldogs’ Lachie Hunter were taken off for repairs on busted noses.
But the see-sawing scoreline swung in the Bulldogs’ favour in a home match they had to sell to Cairns in a bid to boost the club’s bottom line.
Macrae, Lachie Hunter, Jack Stringer, Nathan Hrovat, Luke Dahlhaus, Jason Johannisen, Tom Liberatore, Stewart Crameri, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Redpath all booted goals as the Dogs got the upper hand.
The Bulldogs had threatened to blow the game wide open in the first quarter, slamming home three majors in four minutes after the wasteful Suns missed three golden opportunities on goal.
The Suns needed something to stop the rot and they found it in Jaeger O’Meara (two goals, 22 disposals) in the shadows of halftime with the 20-year-old loading up from 50m out and goalling.
Charlie Dixon slotted another major for the Suns to open the second quarter, but for the next 20 minutes the two teams traded behinds before finally Tom Lynch (two goals, 16 disposals) broke the goal drought.
His superb individual effort closed the gap to just five points.
The tense battle continued in the third term before the Dogs eased to victory with the match in the balance.