James Sicily was the match-winner as Hawthorn brought Western Bulldogs’ fast start to the season to a halt, edging the AFL upstarts by three points on Sunday afternoon.
In an absorbing contest of major momentum swings, Sicily’s three third-quarter goals proved the difference in a 14.9 (93) to 13.12 (90) win.
The Hawks were outplayed by the fleet-footed Bulldogs for much of the day but jumped off the canvas in the last quarter.
Alastair Clarkson’s side turned a 19-point three-quarter time deficit into a tight victory by stopping the fleet-footed Bulldogs in their tracks.
The loss was incredibly tough on the Bulldogs, who had reeled in the premiers after conceding the first five goals of the match.
Led by Caleb Daniel, Luke Dahlhaus and former Hawk Matt Suckling, the Dogs were roared on in front of a bumper crowd of more than 47,000 people.
But experience told at the last, with Hawks Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne and Sam Mitchell among Hawthorn’s best.
There were six lead changes in the last term, as Luke Beveridge’s side sought to continue their 100 per cent record in 2016.
The Hawks looked winners when Sicily booted his second goal of the final term to put them ahead by 11 with just five minutes to play.
But the Dogs wouldn’t roll over, responding with goals to Dahlhaus and Jake Stringer to lead once more.
Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy was a casualty in the late drama, collapsing in a two-on-one contest and being helped from the field.
It was Sicily who took the mark and who converted, kicking his third major with less than a minute on the clock and winning the game.