GOLD COAST 6.1 11.3 12.7 15.8 (98) CARLTON 2.3 4.7 9.13 11.20 (86)
GOALS Gold Coast: Lynch 4, Caddy 3, Brown 2, Hickey, McKenzie, Weller, Horsley, Ablett, Dixon. Carlton: Judd 2, Betts 2, McLean 2, Yarran 2, Waite 2, Garlett.
BEST Gold Coast: Dixon, Ablett, Lynch, Matera, Coad, Warnock. Carlton: McLean, Murphy, Judd, Betts, Yarran, Kruezer.
INJURIES Gold Coast: Taylor (abdomen) replaced in selected side by Toy. Carlton: McInnes (knee); Duigan (head).
UMPIRES Hay, B Ryan, Pannell.
CROWD 15,251 at Metricon Stadium.
THIS was the game Carlton simply had to win - for its finals hopes, for coach Brett Ratten, for pride. After starting the season looking like flag favourites, very little has gone right for the Blues this year. Perhaps, in the end, the result was fitting. It has been a cursed season.
Gold Coast caused perhaps the upset of a long season last night, delivering a result to make the football world take notice with back-to-back home wins, this time against a very talented opponent. But for now, all the focus will be on Carlton, and Ratten - and deservedly so.
It started badly for the Blues, with Andrew McInnes subbed out of the game after injuring a knee in the first marking contest of the game, Tom Lynch then kicking beautifully from the paint of 50 metres for the Coast's first goal.
Then things turned very dark indeed, as the Suns slammed through the next five goals, highlighted by a classic "cannon" from Trent McKenzie, and the Coast, figuratively, going coast-to-coast from full-back for Campbell Brown to kick his first.
Notably, Gary Ablett wasn't a huge part of it, at least not early on. The evenness of this depleted Suns unit - it has 19 players on its injury list - was notable. Several players - Matt Shaw, Michael Coad and Charlie Dixon - contributed their best games for the club.
Ablett's opposing captain Chris Judd was the only one to give the Blues a sniff towards the end of the first quarter, snaffling two goals from stoppages in his side's forward 50, with the home side noticeably wilting in red time.
But if Ratten hoped normal transmission was about to be resumed, he was terribly wrong.
The Coast conceded the first goal of the second quarter to Eddie Betts, but then Carlton gifted the Suns with an errant kick-in at the other end, Kyal Horsley marking a slips catch, then putting the ball back over his opponent's head.
Brandon Matera, who has made giant strides in recent weeks, was then instrumental in setting up Ablett's first goal, a brilliant snap over the shoulder from 45 metres out. Dixon, gaining confidence as a ruckman, then squared the ball perfectly for Josh Caddy to swoop.
Dixon then kicked a goal of his own, marking in the square from a clever kick by Jacob Gilbee. The big man then won another free kick from the next clearance after a heavy collision with Nick Duigan that saw both players come off. Brown took the responsibility, and the lead was 39 points - a margin that more or less held to half-time.
How did this happen? Part of it was that the Suns were playing with the sort of dare and flair they showed at their best in their first season. It was exhilarating, efficient football. Perhaps above all, they were playing like a team finally becoming predictable to each other. Considering the number of changes to the side, that was surprising.
But the other half of it was that Carlton was simply awful, bumbling and fumbling from the start, then clearly rattled once the Suns had their tails up. Most of all, they couldn't hit a target, kicking six straight behinds from late in the second quarter to seven minutes into the third, before Chris Yarran finally ended the yips. Jarrad Waite had missed three sitters.
The question was whether or not the Suns could sustain their momentum. Third quarters have been their bete noire all season; had the Blues kicked straighter, they may even have taken a final-quarter lead.
As it was, they kicked 5.6, Betts and Yarran making their touches count, Brock McLean continuing his career resurrection, and Waite finally breaking through with a running goal to reduce the deficit to two kicks at the last break.
But the Blues just couldn't gel. They kicked another 2.7 in the last quarter, drawing within four points with a second major to Waite, only for the Suns to find new reserves of belief to kick the last two of the match, Lynch finishing with four goals. It was an extraordinary result. But the aftermath will be equally worth watching.
Brett Ratten shouldn't have to bear all the blame for his side's season. He hasn't had a lot of luck along the way. But it will be very hard for him to defend this defeat against a young side with a reduced line-up and with so much at stake.
LIES, DAMN LIES
Forget the stats: Carlton led the possession count (both contested and uncontested), the clearances and the tackle count. Yet it was behind by 38 points at half-time, and frankly deserved to lose the game. Lies, damn lies … you know the rest.
Twenty-eight-year-old Michael Coad was dropped back to the Suns' rookie list this year after a debilitating run with injury. In his second game for the year, he played a fine game as an attacking full-back that will raise his hopes of retention in 2013.