Melbourne players celebrate after their first win.

Melbourne players celebrate after their first win. Photo: Joe Armao

Never in its 153-year history can Melbourne Football Club have reached a lower ebb than at three-quarter time at the MCG on Sunday. Still living down one scandal and newly tainted by another, put into a form of administration by the AFL and already three thumpings to the worse in season 2013, the hapless Demons now lagged three goals behind two-year-old Greater Western Sydney, a project assembly of bold but beardless boys from a distant frontier not expected to come into their own for another three years. And Mitch Clark was lame and out of the game.

Beforehand, dauntless supporters had made for a surprising bustle on the concourse, and swelled the crowd to 20,000, a number that in the circumstances was creditable. Now, though, there was only silence, and on the tip of some tongues, booing. All eyes fell mercilessly and macabrely on coach Mark Neeld.

Forgive what will read like a non-sequitur, but like a bolt from the grey, this beleaguered Melbourne suddenly kicked 12.2, more than in any previous single quarter in its history, to win the match by seven goals. A bugler, who at three-quarter time might have felt obliged to play The Last Post, instead broke out The Grand Old Flag even before the final siren, and the lower terraces of the MCG at least quivered red and blue.

Melbourne coach Mark Neeld can enjoy a season's first smile. Click for more photos

AFL Round 4, Melbourne v GWS

Melbourne coach Mark Neeld can enjoy a season's first smile. Photo: Joe Armao

In the rooms, this snap-of-the-fingers transformation of night into day, black into white, this 30-minute miracle, was worth two throaty choruses of the club song, one by the drenched players for public consumption, from which Neeld coyly excused himself, and another in an inner sanctum, enfolding the coaches, staff and board. ''I enjoyed that for 30 seconds,'' said Neeld. When they emerged, there was a Jeremy Howe-like spring in every step again. It is a coach's responsibility

and disposition to make even the most improbable turn of events in football seem inevitable and obvious in retrospect. Neeld spoke only briefly to Melbourne at three-quarter time, explaining that it was a waste of time to dwell on more than five points. He concentrated on gameplan, on the need to exploit their fitness training, on what he was certain was the far-from-broken spirit of the team, and on the fans. ''It's difficult to be a Melbourne supporter,'' he told them. ''We've got 30 minutes. They'll get behind us.''

But when asked if he had foreseen the avalanche that ensued, he replied: ''No. Not 12 goals.''

It was the sort of Jekyll and Hyde day from which Melbourne should draw two morals. The first is that victory, howsoever obtained, is its own explanation. For the Demons, suddenly, next week cannot come too soon. Even as the last echo died, Neeld had dispatched assistant coaches to Etihad Stadium to dissect Brisbane Lions, the Demons' next opponent.

The other moral is that winning also can be a mask. For three quarters, the audacious young Giants outplayed Melbourne. Setanta O'hAilpin, in his first game for nearly a year, hustled and bustled for five goals. A showcase of precocious midfielders all shaded their opponents. Melbourne fans booed themselves hoarse at absconder Tom Scully; he had the ball that often. Melbourne's least gain was also its greatest; as Colin Garland noted, recalling three-quarter time: ''We just wanted to be in the contest. We haven't been in a contest for a while.''

The Giants' effort took a toll. In the last quarter, it was as the team lists intimated, men against boys. It was 96 disposals to 57, 18 inside 50s to seven, 12 goals to two. ''We didn't have enough players get their hands on the footy,'' said Giants coach Kevin Sheedy. Caught behind, the Giants gave away three around-the-necks, two free kicks for diving in, a 50-metre penalty and a downfield free kick, all leading to goals.

Pre-game, the MCG scoreboard flashed a message that began: ''In the event of a serious disaster … '' Melbourne's emergency contingency plan was a 12-goal last quarter.