Geelong’s AFL finals hopes took a major hit on Saturday night after they drew with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.
St Kilda’s Shane Savage snapped a behind with 14 seconds left, taking their score to 14.13 (97) to Geelong’s 15.7 (97).
The Cats are ninth, four points and percentage behind North Melbourne with two games left.
North, who play Fremantle on Sunday, drop from seventh to eighth after Adelaide’s win on Saturday night over Brisbane.
There were four lead changes and plenty of high drama in the last quarter before Savage tied the scores.
A few seconds before his behind, teammate Mav Weller took a mark at half forward.
Geelong’s Cory Gregson clearly ran over the mark and should have been paid a 50m penalty that would have put Weller well within scoring range.
Savage missed a sitter earlier in the quarter, while Geelong’s Steven Motlop was denied a goal because he ran too far without bouncing the ball.
The draw was as good as an upset win for the Saints, who made seven forced changes for this match.
Among the players forced out through injury were stars David Armitage and Sean Dempster.
The Saints made an exhilarating start, kicking four goals in the first 10 minutes.
The Cats quickly steadied and the margin was never more than seven points at each change.
Geelong star Steve Johnson had a typical “Stevie J” sort of night, starring with four goals.
But he also was caught out showboating in the second term.
Johnson was jogging – nearly strolling – into a goal when Savage ran him down with a fierce tackle and the kick went through for a behind.
A couple of minutes later, Johnson snapped an outstanding goal on the run that put Geelong in front just before halftime.
Johnson roared at the crowd after the goal, only a couple of minutes after Saints’ fans had roared in derision at him.
Geelong suffered a blow at halftime when Josh Caddy was subbed off with a knee injury.
Johnson kicked two more goals in the third term – he hit the goal umpire with one of them – as Geelong took a 13-point lead and threatened to kick away.
But the Saints rallied to trail by seven points, setting up the pulsating last quarter.
Jason Holmes, the first American born-and-raised AFL player, made a successful debut.
The former college basketballer showed a towering leap at centre bounces, delighting Saints fans.
Holmes also received loud applause close to three-quarter time when he took his first mark and then had his first effective kick.
But he was outpointed by injury-plagued Cats ruckman Nathan Vardy, who played his first senior game since the 2013 preliminary final.
While Holmes had 34 hitouts to Vardy’s 20, the big Cat was more effective around the ground and kicked two goals.
Motlop and Cam Guthrie starred for Geelong and Jack Steven had 10 clearances for St Kilda.