The Western Bulldogs have put in a sparkling performance to nobble finals-bound Collingwood by eight points at Etihad Stadium.
The tough and sharp Bulldogs deserved their fourth win of the season, snapping a month-long losing streak with their 16.10 (106) to 15.8 (98) victory.
A week after the worst loss of Brendan McCartney’s tenure, the Bulldogs responded with his best win.
Hard-nosed and full of attacking enterprise, the Bulldogs were unrecognisable from their last-up defeat to bottom club Brisbane.
Led by the gladiatorial Tom Liberatore and captain Ryan Griffen, the Bulldogs tipped a see-sawing affair their way in the second half, withstanding Travis Cloke’s late effort to wrest back control.
Cloke kicked six, with two in the final ten minutes to bring the Magpies back within a point, but a win would have been robbery.
The Bulldogs had a tight lead at each change and had an answer for every Collingwood challenge.
Beaten coach Nathan Buckley called their style “daring” and McCartney admitted a few “warm and fuzzy moments” seeing his young side prevail.
“They want to be better than (their recent performances) and they want to be more resilient,” McCartney said of his young side.
“My feeling is they’ll definitely become that way.”
For such a close match, it seemed as though the Bulldogs had winners all over the park.
Liam Jones kicked four and had plenty of grunt, Luke Dahlhaus had enormous run and Jordan Roughead was able to slow Cloke’s charge in the second half.
Buckley was clear on where his side went wrong, saying “minus 17 clearances hurts”.
“Our offence wasn’t an issue for us, it was contested ball and it was our ability to defend,” he said.
“We’ve got a young back line and they weren’t able to stand up as they have for so much of the year to date.”
Both sides have concerns leading into crunch matches next week.
The Bulldogs head to Adelaide Oval to play ladder leaders Port Adelaide and will miss Adam Cooney (hamstring) and possibly Griffen (corked calf).
With his defensive concerns, Buckley could sweat over Marley Williams’ availability for Saturday’s blockbuster with Hawthorn.
The young defender was reported for swinging an arm at Nathan Horvat in a quarter-time scuffle.