Cyril Rioli’s last-gasp goal lifted Hawthorn to a pulsating 11.9 (75) to 10.10 (70) win over Sydney to take the reigning triple premiers two games clear at the top of the AFL.
Thursday night’s top-of-the-table cracker went down to the wire at the SCG as two quality rivals picked and prodded each other until the final siren.
The Swans led after the first and third quarters in front of 42,314 spectators – the venue’s biggest crowd since 1997 – and held a one-point lead with less than three minutes on the clock.
But Rioli’s late heroics were the difference for the Hawks in the five-point win.
It settled the score on Sydney’s round-nine victory at the MCG and hands Alastair Clarkson’s men the mental edge heading into any potential finals meeting.
For the Swans it was a second golden opportunity missed to go top, just a fortnight after the Western Bulldogs denied them the summit.
It came despite Gary Rohan’s career-high four goals and an impressive performance from youngster Tom Papley, who booted two of his own.
Rohan put Sydney on the board first with his 50th career goal as the Swans took the opening term by nine points and led the inside 50 and contested possession counts by eight.
But the Hawks returned with a vengeance to keep their long-time rivals to zero goals and one point in a dominant second quarter.
Small forwards Rioli (two goals, 17 possessions) and Paul Puopolo (one goal, 18 possessions) fired up to give some of the Swans’ younger backmen a schooling, as John Longmire’s league-best defence struggled to get out of their half despite Lance Franklin’s (two goals) best efforts.
However the 11-point halftime lead didn’t hold as Sydney rediscovered their efficiency.
Papley booted the Swans’ first goal since the opening quarter before Rohan brought the scores level and then kicked Sydney clear with his third and fourth majors.
With everything on the line in the fourth, Jonathon Ceglar put the Hawks in front by a point with less than nine minutes to run.
But within the blink of an eye Papley struck again, out-foxing Luke Hodge to bomb a long-range beauty.
When Shaun Burgoyne slotted his second to narrow Sydney’s already-slim lead to a solitary point, the stage was set for Rioli to set sail his 55m winner.
Hodge could attract the ire of the match review panel for a sling tackle on Callum Sinclair.
The Swans will have some concerns over Zak Jones, who was carried from the field with a leg injury in the final term.