GW Sydney 9.13.67 Collingwood 11.9.75
It is not often said about Greater Western Sydney that they threw away a game they should have won but that was the case on Saturday night.
The Giants had been warned all week by coach Leon Cameron that Collingwood are at their best with their backs to the wall, and so it proved, as the Magpies prevailed by eight points despite losing another three stars to injury.
For much of the night it seemed the injury-depleted side with nothing to play for would prevail over the undermanned team fighting for a September berth.
Neck and neck: Magpies midfielder Dane Swan challenges Giants defender Mark Whiley for the ball. Photo: Getty Images
But for footballers, the whiff of finals, however faint, is far more intoxicating than a holiday.
Sure, they had their share of injury problems with nine of their best team out and another player, Jono O'Rourke, hamstrung by half-time but Collingwood were in worse shape. They had 10 first-choice stars out then lost Clinton Young, Dane Swan and Brent Macaffer by the first minute of the second half.
Throw in a 21-point deficit early in the second term and the recipe was there for what would have been the Giants' sixth win of the season.
Instead, the Magpies, with a side which would not have looked out of place in the VFL, pulled off one of their most remarkable victories of the season to stay in the finals race.
The Magpies did not find the lead until 22 minutes into the final term when Josh Thomas, who was close to best afield, and ensured they would stay there when Steele Sidebottom kicked the sealer with less than two minutes to go.
While they were ably led by Scott Pendlebury and Luke Ball, it was the likes of Thomas, Tim Broomhead and Marley Williams who answered their club's call.
"We had a lot of young blokes who stood up and got the job done when required under some duress, and it will be something they can learn from and take with them," Nathan Buckley said.
For the Giants, this was the fifth game they have lost this season by 15 points or less.
Toby Greene amassed 42 possessions, continuing his strong form since his run in with the law, while Shane Mumford thrived in the heavy conditions.
In each of the three quarters, there was a point where it was a matter of how much the Giants would win by, most notably in the second term, when the Magpies defence was under siege.
At one stage, the inexperienced Magpies defence, through a lack of know-how more than any lack of effort, could not find a way out of their back half.
Inevitably, the Giants conjured a goal, through Tom Boyd, who marked strongly on the lead. They were gifted another minutes later when Jarrod Witts and Tyson Goldsack spoiled each other deep in defence, allowing Josh Hunt to goal after collecting an uncontested crumb.
With the Pies down to just one fit player on the bench in the second half, logic said the Giants should have run away with the game.
They hit the post twice, through third-gamer James Stewart, and appeared to have the game won when Will Hoskin-Elliott goalled from 50 out on the boundary, only for the Pies to summons one last burst for the line.
"We need to find a way to win those close games because we're going to be in a lot of them next year," Leon Cameron said. "We're really bridging the gap, we're coming and we're coming fast.
"But for us as a young club, we need to find a way to win those close games.
"You can clearly see the boys are flat, but the supporters and our members and the people involved in our footy club can see the general improvement.
"I see it, I think everyone else does, and they're disappointed to lose a game like that. But it's great to be involved in close games."