St Kilda was always expected to leave Perth with four more premiership points in its 2023 account, but no-one expected them to have to work as hard as they did against West Coast on the way to the 12.13 (85) to 12.5 (77) result.
After the Eagles suffered a week of turmoil following their 171-point mauling at the hands of Sydney, Ross Lyon said his side needed to be wary of a proud club determined to fight back, and he was on the money.
The day started almost as badly as possible for the Eagles with Tim Kelly and Luke Edwards late withdrawals due to illness, however, once the game started it didn't matter who was on the ground - if they were in a West Coast jumper they were going to do everything they could to reverse the ill-fortune of the season so far and recent weeks in particular.
A seven-point lead at quarter-time had the Optus Stadium crowd on its feet, applauding the Eagles players as they went to the huddle.
They may have thought that would be the end of their joy and wanted to make the most of the moment, but it went on when play resumed, West Coast holding a four-goal advantage at the long break.
A different St Kilda came out after half-time, the visitors kicking the first three goals of the quarter to move within a kick before the Eagles replied with the next three.
But then it was the Saints again with three more to trail by a single point at the final break, and a Mitch Owens goal to start the last term had them in front.
From there it was an armwrestle but West Coast couldn't find a path through a crowded St Kilda defence, the Saints holding on for a crucial, and heartstopping, win.
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With a foothold in the top eight on the line for the Saints, and the Eagles playing for respect and potentially careers, the match became a thrilling high-stakes battle with a difference.
St Kilda was forced to come from 31 points down in the second quarter to secure the important win. However, it was left nursing injuries after defender Josh Battle (concussion) was ruled out early in the match and midfielder Bradley Hill (knee) left the ground late with trainers.
Exciting young forward Mitch Owens was the difference for the visitors with four goals, including the only goal of the final term, which proved critical.
Ruckman Rowan Marshall (26 disposals and eight clearances), midfielder Brad Crouch (26 and seven clearances) and half-back Jack Sinclair (30 and five inside 50s) were all influential.
They might not have expected the spirited Eagles team they encountered after last week's 171-point loss to Sydney, and were made to earn the important win from start to finish.
Career-high 4 goals for Mitchito 🌟 pic.twitter.com/fInEUE4H7p— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) July 2, 2023
Indeed, West Coast entered this match having not won any quarter since the third term against Gold Coast in round nine, losing 21 on the trot as their season lurched from low to new low.
That streak ended on Sunday, however, as the home team responded to last week's humiliation with one of their best and most ferocious quarters of football this season.
Captain Luke Shuey set the tone with eight tackles and his teammates followed, applying relentless pressure to the visitors and riding a wave of momentum to make their intentions for the day clear.
Small forward Noah Long provided the early highlight when he used one hand to guide a brilliant checkside goal through from the boundary, with the Eagles celebrating every effort with enthusiasm. And when Jamie Cripps slotted his set shot in his first game since round three, the Eagles had a seven-point quarter-time lead and reason to believe in an unthinkable upset.
Belief turned to expectation in the second quarter as West Coast showed no sign of relenting, kicking four consecutive goals to open a match-high 31-point lead.
The defensive efforts of Tom Barrass were outstanding, while the Eagles settled into a deliberately controlled game style and took 43 marks to 13 as the Saints flooded numbers back.
Two late goals from young St Kilda forward Anthony Caminiti proved crucial in controlling the margin before half-time, and the visitors were able to make their move in the third term. They matched the Eagles' pressure through the hard-tackling Crouch, took more risks with the ball, and started forcing turnovers in the front half rather than folding back.
The Eagles responded with an impressive patch of their own, with impressive draftee Elijah Hewett hitting a contest at pace and snapping a terrific goal that restored the margin to 21 points.
General play was on the Saints' terms, however, and they capitalised with late goals that set up a thrilling final term, with the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead at the final change.
Missed chances in the final quarter will be rued by both teams, with Owens' goalsquare goal in the opening minute the only major of the term.
Cripps had a set shot in the final minute that could have set up a grandstand final centre bounce, but he sent his shot wide as the Saints escaped with the critical points.
West Coast: Shuey, Barrass, Hurn, Duggan, Sheed, B Williams
St Kilda: Marshall, Crouch, Owens, Sinclair, Gresham, Steele
West Coast: Darling (shoulder)
St Kilda: Battle (concussion), Hill (knee)
West Coast: Tim Kelly and Luke Edwards (both illness) replaced in the selected side by Ryan Maric and Xavier O'Neill
St Kilda: Nil
West Coast: Harry Barnett (replaced Jack Darling in the fourth quarter)
St Kilda: Cooper Sharman (replaced Josh Battle in the second quarter)
Crowd: 35,579 at Optus Stadium