Western Bulldogs maestro Marcus Bontempelli has boosted his AFL side’s top-four chances, helping them pip Collingwood by three points at Etihad Stadium.
Bontempelli was quiet early but sparked the Bulldogs in the third quarter on Friday night, stepping up when the Magpies looked on track for an upset victory in the topsy-turvy tussle.
Bulldogs Jordan Roughead and Nathan Hrovat missed chances to kick the sealer in a thrilling finish but their side prevailed 14.11 (95) to 14.8 (92).
“I was glad we stood up,” Bontempelli told the Seven Network.
“Three points is pretty close but with games like that you’re just happy to get over the line.”
Collingwood shot out to an 18-point lead soon after halftime.
Darcy Moore was crashing packs, clutching marks and looking every part a match-winner for the Magpies.
Bontempelli had struggled under the duress of a Levi Greenwood tag in the first half but tallied 12 touches and booted a crucial goal in the third term.
The 20-year-old continued to impress in the final quarter, adding a second goal as the Bulldogs kept their cool in a frantic finish.
The Bulldogs led by five points at quarter-time, one point at halftime and the scores were level at three-quarter time.
They booted the opening two goals of the fourth quarter but the Magpies rallied, levelling the scores a further three times to set up a nail-biter.
The Bulldogs were on the wrong end of two controversial freekicks in the final minute, including one for deliberate out of bounds, but held on.
Bontempelli finished with 26 possessions and seven tackles, while teammate Liam Picken did well to curb the influence of Magpies midfielder Steele Sidebottom after halftime.
Moore, the young forward who fired Collingwood to a shock win over West Coast in round 19, returned from a hamstring injury and was a handful all night.
The 20-year-old, who replaced veteran spearhead Travis Cloke in the Collingwood side, finished with three goals.
Coach Luke Beveridge won’t be content with many aspects of the Bulldogs’ performance.
But with games against Essendon and Fremantle to follow before finals, Beveridge’s side should at least remain sixth on the ladder.
The result means the Bulldogs join Sydney, Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney and Geelong on 14 wins – although all four of those premiership contenders are yet to play in round 21.