Injury-ravaged Geelong defied the odds to hang on for a courageous nine-point AFL win over Gold Coast at Simonds Stadium on Sunday.
With key forward Tom Hawkins a late withdrawal due to family reasons and star midfielders Jimmy Bartel (knee) and Mathew Stokes (leg) gone before halftime, an upset looked on the cards when the Suns led by 12 points at the long break.
But the Cats refused to wilt, kicking six straight goals in the third term to break the game wide open, although they did suffer another big blow when fullback Tom Lonergan was heavily concussed after being accidentally kneed in the head by Sam Day in a marking contest.
It left Geelong down to just one fit player on the bench for the entire last quarter.
Twice the Suns got within three points, but the Cats were able to answer every challenge, finally sealing the result in the final minute with a long bomb from Mark Blicavs.
The 16.9 (105) to 13.18 (96) victory saw Geelong snap a run of four straight losses dating back to the last round of the 2014 home and away season.
The Suns are still searching for their first win under new coach Rodney Eade.
Fringe forward Josh Walker made the most of his late call-up as Hawkins’ replacement, booting a career-high four goals for Geelong.
Skipper Joel Selwood was bested by opponent Michael Rischitelli in the first half, but fought back admirably to be among the home team’s best players along with James Kelly and impressive youngster Cory Gregson.
Gold Coast were well served by key forward Tom Lynch (three goals), Rischitelli, Harley Bennell and Jack Martin.
First-year Sun Jarrod Garlett kicked a brilliant goal in the opening term, bursting off half-back and taking four bounces before kicking truly from long range.
But it was still a third straight loss for the Suns, who were playing without skipper Gary Ablett, out indefinitely with an ongoing shoulder injury.
Bartel was subbed out of Sunday’s match during the opening quarter with a knee injury.
It continued an interrupted start to the season for the 2007 Brownlow medallist, who missed last week’s big home loss against Fremantle due to concussion.