Gary Rohan’s ice-cool set shot after the siren has pinched a thrilling five-point victory for Geelong over fellow AFL premiership fancies the Western Bulldogs.
Toby McLean gave the Bulldogs the lead with four minutes to play when he capped his strong return from a nine-month lay-off with a knee injury by rolling through what could have been the match-winning goal.
But the frantic final stages ended with one last forward thrust for the Cats, with Isaac Smith’s kick finding Rohan, who took a strong mark 40m from goal on a tight angle.
Rohan’s shot started to the right but straightened up and sailed through to give Geelong a 12.11 (83) to 11.12 (78) victory.
The result drew the Cats (10-3) level on wins with the Bulldogs, who retain second place on percentage, one win behind ladder leaders Melbourne.
Both sides lost key players in the bruising encounter, with Cats midfielder Mitch Duncan (knee) limping off in the opening few minutes and Dogs tall forward Aaron Naughton (ribs) hurt moments before half-time.
Rohan, Jeremy Cameron and Sam Menegola each kicked two goals for Geelong, with captain Joel Selwood and defenders Tom Stewart and Jack Henry important.
Smith racked up a team-high 30 disposals on a wing and provided a comical moment when he climbed into an empty stand to collect a ball that had bounced over the fence, saluting the cheering crowd in the next bay.
Only 6,583 fans were on hand under a limit imposed by the Victorian state government and they witnessed a tough first half as Rohan and McLean both passed concussion tests after separate heavy collisions.
The Cats made a late change with Quinton Narkle replacing tall defender Lachie Henderson (hip) and Shaun Higgins was picked as the medical substitute after originally being listed as “managed” and left out of the team.
Only about 10 minutes had passed when Higgins was called on to replace fellow midfielder Duncan, who fell awkwardly in a marking contest and limped off.
A flurry of three goals in as many minutes during time-on of the second quarter put the Cats up by seven points at the main break as the Dogs lost Naughton after his mid-air collision with Jed Bews.
The lead changed hands multiple times as the teams threw everything at each other in the second half.
Josh Bruce kicked three goals for the Bulldogs as Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Liberatore each had 30 or more disposals.
But they couldn’t quite get their side over the line in a classic finish between two sides destined for September action.