Jamie Elliott kicked four goals in his 150th game to help Collingwood upset Melbourne by seven points and stamp themselves as a genuine AFL premiership threat.
The lead swung on the last five goals of a pulsating contest at the MCG on Friday night before the Magpies prevailed 15.6 (96) to 13.11 (89) in front of 70,956 fans.
It was Collingwood’s 10th win by a margin of less than two goals in a rollicking first season under Craig McRae, lifting them into second spot on the ladder.
But the fallout could hurt, with Will Hoskin-Elliott (hip flexor) substituted out, Nick Daicos (ribs) hurt and Mason Cox set to come under scrutiny for driving his knee into Max Gawn’s stomach at a ruck contest.
Ash Johnson matched Elliott’s tally with four goals, Daicos (31 disposals) was brilliant at half-back, Jordan De Goey (24 touches, nine clearances) had an impact in the middle and hard-working forward Brody Mihocek (two goals) played a key role opposed to Steven May.
Clayton Oliver (42 disposals, 14 clearances) was best afield for Melbourne and Gawn (31, 10) was superb, while Ben Brown and Bayley Fritsch kicked two goals each.
But they couldn’t stop an irresistible second-half surge from Collingwood, who trailed by 23 points during the second quarter and kicked seven goals to three after the main break to overpower the reigning premiers.
The fuse was lit for a red-hot contest when Ed Langdon branded Collingwood “a bit of a one-trick pony” in a radio interview on Thursday.
The response was one of intent, with the Melbourne wingman crunched by Brayden Maynard in the opening exchanges and immediately set upon by three other Magpies.
Elliott marked his milestone with two first-quarter goals but it was the Demons who led by eight points after a fast-paced opening term.
Every Langdon touch was booed by the Magpie Army and Melbourne fans also found a villain to jeer when Cox thrust his knee into Gawn at a ball-up.
Melbourne dominated general play in the second term thanks to their brilliant midfield – Christian Petracca (36 disposals) and Andrew Brayshaw (32) were prominent – and could easily have led by more than 17 points at halftime.
But Collingwood kept themselves in it with superior efficiency, crafting eight goals from just 18 forward entries to the Demons’ 10 from 41.
Playing through the pain
The Magpies evened up the midfield battle and attacked the contest with ferocity in the third quarter and cut the margin to seven points by the final change.
Daicos was crunched in a Fritsch tackle when he was called to play on after a mark but returned in pain after having his ribs checked.
The lead changed hands five times in an epic final quarter before Collingwood hit the front for the last time through Johnson, who converted a free kick after being pushed in the back by Harrison Petty.