Carlton have withstood a tide of injuries to snatch a last-gasp two-point victory over Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
Matthew Kreuzer was the hero in the 14.9 (93) to 13.13 (91) win, achieved despite the loss of Levi Casboult in the game’s opening minutes.
The ruckman kicked Carlton into the lead late into time-on in the final quarter after the Blues had trailed for much of the match.
The Blues were undermanned and undersized after taking hits to their key players, with Casboult’s ailment diagnosed as a broken tibia requiring up to eight weeks out.
Patrick Cripps, Lachie Plowman, and Kreuzer all needed attention through the afternoon, leaving the Blues with just two on the bench for long spells.
Despite the injury toll, Carlton weathered the storm, leaving coach Brendon Bolton immensely proud of his side.
“We lost Levi and had to adjust. Our group’s ability to find a different way to get the job done, that’s something we’re proud of,” he said.
“The endured. They found a way. Late, they had cool heads under pressure.
“Good footy clubs find a way when you lose soldiers or under duress.”
Ken Hinkley’s men played as if set up to counter-attack and it worked for much of the game, with the Power staying in front, if not in control.
Each time Carlton challenged for the lead, Port Adelaide found a response.
Chad Wingard, twice, and Travis Boak put Port back in front within a minute of losing leads.
When Matthew Broadbent and Charlie Dixon goals put the Power 17 points ahead with just 10 minutes left, it looked a challenge too far for the besieged Blues.
But late goals to Liam Jones and Liam Sumner laid the platform for Kreuzer’s roof-raising major to snatch a famous victory.
That the comeback came in the milestone occasion of Kade Simpson’s 250th game and Michael Jamison’s 150th only amplified Bolton’s praise.
“On such an important occasion for two players at our club … it shows how much they’re playing for each other,” he said.
Sam Rowe deserves credit for filling the breach where needed, the backman spending time in the ruck and up forward to help his side through.
Despite the two clubs’ vastly different expectations for the season, both are now 4-4 in the win-loss, with Carlton nabbing a fourth-straight success.
Hinkley said his side’s late effort was “unacceptable”.
“We put the game in a position where we shouldn’t have lost it and we just weren’t strong enough when it counted the most.”