Hawthorn have reclaimed their spot in the AFL’s top four with a thrilling one-point win over Collingwood at the MCG.
The Hawks, chasing a fourth straight premiership, needed to win or draw their final game of the regular season to secure a coveted double chance in the finals.
They ticked it off in dramatic fashion and will now face rivals Geelong in a qualifying final, having beaten the Magpies 17.10 (112) to 17.9 (111).
Collingwood, who were a man down in the second half following James Aish’s hamstring injury, booted four consecutive goals to hit the front with a tick under three minutes remaining.
Jack Fitzpatrick, called into the Hawks’ side following ruckman Jon Ceglar’s season-ending knee injury, was the unlikely hero.
Fitzpatrick burst through the middle and unloaded a bomb from over 55 metres out to level the scores.
A behind from Paul Puopolo then put them in front and the Magpies ran out of time.
It was the sixth time this year Hawthorn have won by nine points or less.
The Hawks trailed by 16 points in the second quarter and were outplayed for much of the contest.
Small forwards Cyril Rioli and Luke Breust led a spirited comeback and a snapped goal from veteran Jordan Lewis gave Hawthorn a 12-point buffer at three-quarter time.
The Magpies continued to fight in front of a crowd of 52,968, levelling the scores early in the fourth term.
The Hawks steadied thanks to clutch goals from James Sicily, Billy Hartung and Shaun Burgoyne, only for Collingwood to rally again.
Rioli and Breust booted a combined six goals but their pressure as defensive forwards was just as influential, while Hartung and Burgoyne were among a handful of Hawks to lift after halftime.
Coach Alastair Clarkson will be relieved his team finished in the top four as history suggests their premiership hopes would have been dashed otherwise.
Josh Gibson could be scrutinised for a clumsy spoil on Greenwood in the second quarter but AFL legend Wayne Carey expected the Hawks defender would be cleared by the match review panel.
“That’s no worse than Rory Sloane (who was suspended last week) but Greenwood’s got no claret and that’s what saves Gibson. I think he’s fine,” Carey said on radio station Triple M.