ST KILDA have come away with a steely 10-point win against Geelong at Marvel Stadium, its first over the Cats since 2016.
A seven-goal third term proved to be the difference, and while the Cats got as close as three points in the last, two clutch Paddy Ryder goals steered the Saints to the 13.12 (90) to 11.14 (80) result.
While the opening half between the two top-eight teams had been oddly lacklustre, the second delivered in spades.
St Kilda had never been too far away in the first two quarters, but had struggled to find the class to deliver well inside 50, and though Geelong moved the ball with a lot more freedom, it probably didn't capitalise quite enough on its efforts.
Things looked like turning after the main break when Tim Membrey opened the Saints’ account, but two quick goals to the Cats – the second for both Zach Tuohy and Tom Hawkins – saw the margin jump out to a then game-high 21 points.
But where last year's St Kilda side may have folded in a heap, this new edition steeled itself, kicking six straight goals, including a beautiful piece of ruck work from Ryder and connection with Jack Billings to take the lead for the first time.
The veteran ruck produced a memorable performance (22 hitouts, three goals), proving too tall and strong when resting in attack for Jake Kolodjashnij, with Mark Blicavs instead playing on the wing.
St Kilda had suffered a double blow halfway through the second quarter, losing Jack Higgins (concussion) and skipper Jack Steele (shoulder) in the space of a few minutes, but the latter returned after half-time, spending more time forward.
Brad Crouch had 19 disposals to half-time and finished with 36 and seven tackles for the match, while Jade Gresham (30, nine clearances) was instrumental in the second-half turnaround and Jack Sinclair (nearly 600m gained) provided plenty of bounce off half-back.
ST KILDA 2.2 4.4 11.8 13.12 (90)
GEELONG 4.3 6.8 8.10 11.14 (80)
St Kilda: Ryder 3, King 2, Membrey 2, Marshall, Jones, Sharman, Billings, Wood, Long
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Tuohy 2, Smith, Miers, C.Guthrie, Stengle, Cameron
St Kilda: Gresham, Crouch, Ryder, Sinclair, Billings
Geelong: Tuohy, Stewart, Selwood, C. Guthriafle, Hawkins
St Kilda: Higgins (concussion), Steele (shoulder)
St Kilda: Marcus Windhager (replaced Higgins in the second quarter)
Geelong: Cooper Stephens (unused)