It wasn't a dream. Yesterday did happen.

St Kilda's first finals win in a decade ended in sensational fashion, with the red, white and black holding on to record a narrow three-point victory and advance into next week's semi final against Richmond.

It was a win built on team-play, dynamic football and mastery in the air, but as with any game, there were moments of individual brilliance which defined the momentous victory.

Captain, our captain

It was only fitting that the last remaining Saint from the club's most recent finals campaign would pack one of the biggest punches.

And for Jarryn Geary, his knockout blow was the purest definition of a captain's performance.

While Geary's team-first roles often avoid the limelight and often go by unnoticed, the veteran Saint was undisputedly centre stage off the back of his elimination final heroics. 

01:37 Mins
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EF | Geary voted Man of the Match

Jarryn Geary is the Carlton Draught Man of the Match after his heroics against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday twilight

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The No. 14 slotted two vital goals – including one in the final term – after selflessly handing off his first opportunity to Tim Membrey, and outpointed his opponents in the air with a game-high four contested marks and seven score involvements.

The recently re-signed skipper started off the game as a defensive forward on Caleb Daniel, keeping the All-Australian quiet before spending time on Jason Johannisen as the Bulldogs moved the magnets around at the major break.

For all the doubters, this is why he is our captain.

The class of Ryder

Paddy Ryder's first winning final in 257 games ended in heartbreak with a hamstring tendon injury, but the 32-year-old's impact was first-class.

Without him, the Saints wouldn't be eyeing off next week's semi-final against Richmond.

The all-encompassing ruckman was fabulous against the Bulldogs, overwhelming supporters through his precise ruckwork (20 hit-outs, nine to advantage) and potency in front of goal (two majors from two contested marks).

Safe hands.

A vital intercept mark deep in defence also saved the Saints from relinquishing their third quarter buffer, which ultimately paved the way towards Dan Butler's electric goal up the other end.

While his night may have ended in tears, his performance and impact won't be forgotten between all those who wear the red, white and black.

Hanners' heroics 

Brett Ratten flagged September experience as being one of the most telling factors in the match's outcome. Ultimately, it was a major contributor in getting the Saints over the line.

And it was led by Dan Hannebery, whose experience, skill and courage all shone through as the Saints bagged their first finals win in a decade.

The triple All-Australian and Premiership Swan starred in his 23rd final, amassing a team-high 20 disposals, five inside-50s and five score involvements to put his side on the right side of the ledger.

Dan Hannebery's 12th game as a Saint was dazzling on multiple fronts.

His on-field presence was matched by his vocal impact, with his A-list influence spurring the Saints to dig deep and get the job done.

Hannebery's leading by example was crystal clear when he put his body on the line to almost intercept a Bailey Smith mark deep in attack, before bouncing back up and continuing the grind towards a long-awaited win.

Just goes to show that nothing can replicate experience. 

Doooooooooooug

Steal of the trade period.

Dougal Howard was arguably the Saints' most important player on the ground, holding the defence together and continually repelling the Bulldogs' onslaughts time after time.

The former Port big man's reliability or efforts never wavered, even as the heat and pressure ramped up in the palpitation-inducing final quarter. 

Dougal Howard was next-level sensational against the Western Bulldogs. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Whether it be a thumping spoil, a desperate dive to knock the ball forward or a clean kick to get the Saints out of danger, his match-winning efforts added up one-by-one and only increased in terms of importance.

Howard closed out his extraordinary outing at the Gabba with 20 disposals at 85 per cent efficiency, 10 one-percenters, eight intercepts, six marks, 604 metres gained and a whopping 15 rebound-50s.

On top of that, the Dogs ended the match with an additional 16 inside-50s.

How's that for a set of numbers. 

Coffield’s massive final quarter

Nick Coffield reeled 100 marks during this year's home-and-away season – the fifth-most of the competition – but none were more important than his match-winning eight on Saturday.

The 20-year-old with just 35 games to his name was ultra-impressive, particularly in the final quarter where he clunked four intercept marks to ward off the Bulldogs' continual threat.

Massive in the last quarter but terrific all throughout the match, the key defender ended his maiden final with 14 disposals, eight marks (five intercept marks) and seven intercepts.

Dan Hannebery said post-match that Nick Coffield was arguably best-on-ground for the Saints after his rousing final quarter. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

A crucial free kick awarded to Coffield on the paint of 50 ran some much-needed time time off the clock, before his precise kick wide hit Rowan Marshall to effectively ice the game.

He wasn't the only young Saint to play an influential hand late in the game, with Ben Long's toughness, Hunter Clark's class and Ben Paton's mark on the final siren all adding to the emotional victory.

King rises to the occasion

While Coffield and Jake Carlisle were pulling in the big marking numbers down back, up the other end, the No. 12 was doing the exact same.

Max King looked like he had superglue on his hands, ending his afternoon with four contested marks and two crucial goals to boot.

The 20-year-old's pair came off the back of two contested grabs in the goal square, the first of which saw him brilliantly step around three Dogs' defenders and get the Saints back on level terms early in the opening quarter.

Max King was sensational in his first final with two important goals in the opening half.

Just as impressive was his sleekness at ground level.

It's a trait of the 202cm talent's that often goes overlooked, but it couldn't have been any clearer against the Bulldogs with several influential moments – with surprising agility – coming from below his knees.

King's deft touch was also on show in the third term, brushing aside two Bulldogs after a smooth pick-up and almost converting his third with a snap around the body.

Ross’ tackle on Bontempelli

The Dogs were starting to get their bite back.

A missed shot moments earlier in the third quarter from Bailey Smith had the opportunity to draw his side within single figures, but another opportunity was fast approaching.

They were out after winning a turnover in the middle of the ground, their handball chain was up and running and skipper Marcus Bontempelli was the final link as the Bulldogs charged towards forward 50.

But Seb Ross had something to say about it.

Seb Ross brings down the Bulldogs' skipper.

The vice-captain had eyes for the Dogs' skipper, and with one herculean effort latched onto the All-Australian and brought him to ground in the perfect tackle.

Ross (16 disposals, six tackles, three clearances) was rewarded for his efforts, which – with some help courtesy of a brilliant Dougal Howard tap to advantage – resulted in Paddy Ryder's second goal of the afternoon.

Big men stand tall

Marking was the Saints' forte on Saturday afternoon, and it couldn't have been more important in the hair-raising final term.

Nick Coffield's grabs were crucial down in defence, but around the ground, Rowan Marshall (six marks) and Tim Membrey (nine) had an equally important say.

03:52 Mins
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EF | Watch the last two minutes

Relive the thrilling final moments between the Bulldogs and the Saints

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Both Saints held onto critical marks in the dying moments, depriving the Bulldogs of the fast movement they needed to pinch a thrilling win.

Marshall's counterpart in Paddy Ryder was equally superb above his head with six marks (three contested), Max King clunked five (four contested) while Jake Carlisle was incredibly reliable with six marks in defence (three contested). 

There’s more to come

There's still another chapter to write, however.

For our young Saints, this is only the beginning. For the weathered campaigners, they know what needs to be done.

The roar of the St Kilda faithful, rising from the seats of the Gabba and the couches of Victoria, could be felt at last night's final siren, and those cheers will be twice as strong heading into next week.

Together we rise. Photo: Corey Scicluna.

Our first finals win in a decade is in the books. Now the Friday night lights await, a mammoth semi final of epic proportions is less than a week away.

We've been through the ride as one, stood up to the plate amid the challenging circumstances and never faltered in our loyalty. And we're ready to do it all over again.

Bring on the Tigers.