Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich felt sick to the stomach on Sunday – and coach Ross Lyon was probably feeling the same as the prospect of losing to Brisbane grew stronger.
The Dockers were expected to make light work of the last-placed Lions, but found themselves up by just three points heading into the final change despite dominating the inside-50m count 39-22.
Pavlich, on a rare three-game goal drought, was almost ruled out of Sunday’s match after being struck down by gastro.
But the 33-year-old stood tall when it mattered most, kicking two goals early in the last quarter to lift Fremantle to the 13.6 (84) to 7.6 (48) win.
Pavlich finished with three goals for the match, but was forced to the bench in the dying minutes so he could throw up some more.
“He was really crook,” Lyon said.
“He had some severe gastro. He was throwing up at half-time, pre-game.
“So it just speaks volumes to his character.
“I thought he played well.”
Goalsneak Michael Walters continued his good form with four goals, while Nat Fyfe finished with 27 disposals and nine clearances despite the close attention of Mitch Robinson.
Brisbane were plucky for three quarters, but faded when the game was on the line.
The situation was similar to their last game, when they coughed up a 24-point lead at the final change in a 13-point loss to Adelaide.
“It was a bit of deja vu from this week to last week,” Lions coach Justin Leppitsch said.
“We were highly competitive again, just lacked a bit of polish and class to finish, and they had it.
“They were very accurate in that last quarter; they kicked 7.1, which didn’t help the scoreline.
“But I guess you have to be pleased with the competitive effort of our group given the opposition we were up against.”
The match pitted first against last, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect that disparity for the majority of the contest.
Fremantle threatened to blow the game wide open in the second term when they dominated the inside-50m count 17-4 as driving rain lashed the ground.
But the Dockers were left to rue a series of missed chances in front of goal, with Hayden Ballantyne missing an easy set shot, before Fyfe and Zac Clarke sprayed their kicks out on the full.
The Dockers have struggled to produce their best form in the wet this season, but Lyon refuses to let his players use conditions as an excuse.
“At the end of the day, people have to grow up and play in anything,” Lyon said.