After an AFL year of hurt, Essendon have given their suffering fans a slice of late-season reward, downing Gold Coast by six points to end the club’s worst losing streak.
The Bombers were full of effort and heart at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, running Gold Coast ragged to finish 11.9 (75) to 6.15 (69) winners – their first victory in 18 matches.
The match was in the balance right until the final siren.
After butchering opportunities all match, Gold Coast captain Tom Lynch’s goal left the Suns six points behind with 14 seconds to play.
But there would be no last-gasp effort, with John Worsfold’s side completing an improbable comeback win.
There were seven lead changes on an afternoon when two injury-hit sides needed to improvise their way to a result.
The Suns’ tall timber of Tom Lynch, Sam Day and Peter Wright stole the momentum in the third term, each kicking goals to have the Suns 13 points ahead.
It looked as though Rodney Eade’s side would kick clear but Essendon stood up.
The makeshift Bombers side kicked five-straight goals, giving the 16,622 crowd the first chance to sing the club song since April.
David Zaharakis (40 disposals) and stand-in captain Zach Merrett (38 disposals) were mighty for the Bombers, with Orazio Fantasia’s three goals proving vital.
Jake Long, son of club legend Michael Long, made a promising debut with two goal assists and 13 touches with few errors.
For the Suns, Touk Miller (39 disposals) was one of few that could hold their head high.
The loss will matter little to the Suns in the short term, having already missed out on a finals campaign.
But the manner of the capitulation is likely to raise plenty of question marks about the playing group.