Another step closer.
It certainly came with a few nervous moments and hair-raising passages of play, but St Kilda's finals hopes are alive after snaring a 14-point victory over Hawthorn in Jarryn Geary's 200th game.
The Saints fought hard from siren-to-siren, overcoming the Hawks' five-goal opening term and seeing through their dangerous late surge to confirm the 11.14 (80) to 9.12 (66) scorecard at Metricon Stadium.
SAINTS MATCH CENTRE: View all stats, news and videos from Round 16
With key forwards Max King (managed) and Tim Membrey (injured) out of the line-up, Silk-Miller Memorial medallist Rowan Marshall (two goals, 14 disposals, eight marks) served as the key focal point in attack as the Saints spread the load with nine individual goalkickers.
Pressure-magnet Jack Lonie joined the best-on-ground Marshall as the club's multiple scorers for the afternoon, while Seb Ross (23 disposals, eight clearances, seven inside-50s) and Bradley Hill (22 disposals, 484 metres gained), plus some pivotal moments from Jack Sinclair, served as the backbone for their side's drives forward.
Hawthorn came close to raining on the Saints' parade and precipitating a finals boilover, particularly in the last term with nine shots on goal to put the margin within single figures twice.
But Brett Ratten's men steadied and controlled the game when it mattered, with crucial second-half goals from Jack Billings, Paddy Ryder and first-gamer Ryan Abbott staving off the hard-nosed Hawks and seeing Brett Ratten's men claim the Blue Ribbon Cup for the second consecutive year.
It was all brown-and-gold early as Tom Mitchell (27 disposals, one goal) and James Worpel – who suffered a nasty shoulder injury in the third term after colliding with Dean Kent – helped drive the Hawks towards kicking the opening three goals of the game.
Caught on the back-foot and unable to gain possession against the smooth Hawks around the stoppages, a pristine snap from Marshall late in the quarter broke the ascendancy and diverted the one-way traffic into more of an even flow.
Both sides registered a combined nine goals in the first quarter, with a determined smother from Paddy Ryder (26 hit-outs, three clearances) on Luke Breust's after-the-siren set shot preventing the Hawks from extending their slender lead.
If the opening quarter had the scoring floodgates wide open, the dam wall had been put up in the second with Lonie the only major benefactor in the dying moments.
With an emphasis on controlling possession and starving Alastair Clarkson's men of their run, the red, white and black controlled the airwaves – to the detriment of moving fast on the counter-attack – to register +27 marks for the quarter.
By final siren, St Kilda had reeled in a staggering 51 more marks against Hawthorn (43 uncontested), with 21 split between Nick Coffield (11) and Ben Paton (10).
Ben Long was at his tough best in defence mirroring the gritty efforts of Lonie up forward, while the fleet-footed Sinclair's individual acts continued to shine through as the Saints took a three-point lead into the main change.
The Saints came close to striking the right balance in the third term after dominating the clearances and inside-50s.
But unable to take full advantage, the door remained ajar for the Hawks as Breust snared his first to remain in touch.
St Kilda had came agonisingly close to pushing their lead beyond Hawthorn's reach, kicking five points in the third term and hitting the post four times throughout the course of the match.
Billings' tumbling cloud-tickler on his non-preferred, tucked up against the boundary, spiralled through the big sticks after the siren to gift the Saints a handy buffer heading into the final term – a goal that would prove crucial as Hawthorn mounted its final charge in the subsequent 20 minutes.
While a brilliant end-to-end chain saw Josh Battle join the scorers early in the fourth, their determined opposition had all opportunities to narrow the gap.
Near misses let the Saints off the hook as the defence weathered the Hawks' press, with the tension finally alleviating after a nervous few moments thanks to a perfect exhibition of dash and strength Jonathon Marsh and a consequent goal to Ryder.
Breust kicked true to put the margin back within single figures for the second time of the quarter, before former Cat Ryan Abbott slotted his first in new colours to effectively ice the game.
The boys get around Ryan Abbott after he kicks his first goal as a Saint ?? pic.twitter.com/QpPUErqx4C— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) September 6, 2020
St Kilda will face West Coast this Thursday night at the Gabba, while Hawthorn will be desperate to snap its losing streak when it squares off against the Western Bulldogs next Sunday at Adelaide Oval.
ST KILDA 4.4 5.8 7.13 11.14 (80)
HAWTHORN 5.1 5.5 6.6 9.12 (66)
St Kilda: Lonie 2, Marshall 2, Steele, Butler, Jones, Battle, Billings, Ryder, Abbott
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Lewis, Gunston, Moore, O’Brien, Hardwick, Scully
St Kilda: Marshall, Ryder, Ross, Hill, Sinclair, Steele, Coffield, Lonie
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Ceglar, Wingard, Day, Cousins, Greaves, Shiels
St Kilda: King (managed) replaced in the selected side by Abbott
Hawthorn: Worpel (collarbone)