Fremantle have narrowly avoided a huge AFL upset, scraping home against a second-string Gold Coast at a dreary Metricon Stadium.
The Suns incredibly came close to victory over the competition frontrunners, spending most of a pulsating final quarter trailing by less than a kick.
But they were unable drag themselves over the line as the Dockers managed to hang on 6.17 (53) to 7.4 (46).
Relieved Fremantle coach Ross Lyon heaped praise on a hugely-depleted young Suns outfit for their dogged determination in making life tough for the Dockers, who had the better of open play but failed to make it count.
“We walk away with some frustrations today but they would have been greater if the scare had have come true and we lost,” Lyon said.
“I think (the result) belies the general play dominance and entry dominance.
“We couldn’t quite capitalise, it was a difficult day, they had numbers back.
“(Gold Coast’s) Rodney Eade’s a very good coach and he’s very good at trying to equal things up when his team’s an underdog.”
Predictions of a Freo bloodbath proved well off the mark, with the ladder leaders again a long way from their best – a week on from their first defeat of the season against Richmond.
But Lyon said he would not dwell on the performance.
“At the end of the day, we turn at the break 10-1, we get a week off (and will) come back pretty invigorated about the second half of the year,” he said.
Most of Fremantle’s failings were down to the Suns.
Where they stumbled against Hawthorn and Sydney in the previous two rounds, Gold Coast was able to drag the game down to their level and stop Fremantle’s damaging run-and-gun style.
Eade said it felt like a watershed moment for his young group, who fell agonisingly short of a result that would have sent shockwaves through the competition.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from them to be honest,” he said.
“On the back of our last three weeks … they’ve seen the light about where we’re headed and what we’re trying to achieve.
“The weight of numbers, guys are buying in.
“It’s a corner and I think we’ve turned it but the trick is we don’t want to go back around the corner.”
Acting captain Michael Rischitelli (17 touches) and boom rookie Adam Saad (20 touches) led the way for the Suns, who lost Danny Stanley to a knee injury early in the first quarter.
The early diagnosis is that Stanley has strained his medial ligament and could be out for up to two months – but there is relief on the injury front with up to nine players set to be available after next week’s bye.
Nathan Fyfe was below his usual high standards but still amassed a game-high 31 possessions and booted two goals to finish as Fremantle’s best.
Ruckman Aaron Sandilands also had a day out with 71 hitouts, breaking his own VFL/AFL record set a fortnight ago.