The Western Bulldogs hung on to score a thrilling six-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
A lacklustre first half gave way to an entertaining second, with the Bulldogs opening up a 21-point lead midway through the final term then holding off a desperate assault by the Saints to secure the 9.8 (62) to 7.14 (56) win.
In pristine conditions under the roof, each side managed just three goals in a dour first half. It was in stark contrast to the last time they met in round six when the Dogs leapt out to a 55-point lead before the Saints stormed home in a scintillating encounter.
Both coaches appeared intent on generating numbers around the ball, which made for difficult viewing at times for the 26,511 fans at the ground.
Veteran St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt provided a rare highlight when he left much younger opponent Jordan Roughead in his wake in a brilliant display of gut running to set up a Darren Minchington goal that helped St Kilda to a three-point lead at halftime.
A complete change came over the contest in the third quarter, with the game opening up as both sides showed more attacking intent.
Josh Bruce kicked his second goal of the night inside the first 30 seconds but the Bulldogs quickly replied through Tom Boyd and seized the momentum.
With Bob Murphy leading the way, the Dogs piled on four goals to establish a 17-point lead but the Saints did well to weather the storm and make it a 10-point game, with a goal to Riewoldt, at the last change.
Goals to Bulldogs youngsters Toby McLean and Lukas Webb looked to have secured the premiership points for Luke Beveridge’s side but, as they have before this season, the Saints came surging back.
Riewoldt was the catalyst with his second goal and Bruce made it a nine-point deficit with his third after a towering contested mark in the goal square.
St Kilda looked irresistible as time ticked down but they peppered the goals with the last three points of the game in a costly display in front of goal, with the tenacious Dogs repelling one last attack before claiming a hard-fought win.