Giant Rhys Palmer is tackled by Geelong's Jimmy Bartel
GEELONG claimed the four points but Greater Western Sydney earned the plaudits after perhaps the best performance in its short history at Skoda Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Unbackable favourites heading into the game against the winless Giants, the Cats had to dig incredibly deep to secure a 24.13 (157) to 15.8 (98) victory that leaves them with a 10-1 record at their mid-season break.
Geelong trailed by 32 points in the first quarter and was still level with its fledgling opponents 28 minutes into the third term, but kicked 11 of the game's last 12 goals to survive a huge scare in front of 7809 fans.
James Podsiadly kicked five goals for the Cats, while Steve Johnson and Allen Christensen were among their best players before both collided early in the final term in a heavy head clash and were helped from the ground.
Neither Johnson nor Christensen returned to the field in a worrying incident for coach Chris Scott.
Joel Selwood lifted to help drag his side over the line, finishing with 29 touches, seven tackles and two goals, and afterwards Scott said the Cats skipper had been hard on himself in recent weeks - and his teammates needed to follow his lead
"He's a very good player who has been a little bit down by his standards, and I mean his standards, because we think he's been pretty good," Scott said.
'But he thinks he can play better and no doubt he can play better than what he's delivered the last couple of weeks.
"But early in the game we were under the pump and we needed the leaders to step up and he was right in the thick of that."
GWS picked up wins over Gold Coast and Port Adelaide last season but this performance against a heavyweight contender surely ranks as its best to date and coach Kevin Sheedy felt progress was gradually being made
"We played solid footy against Sydney in round one and against Essendon, but that was a better performance obviously," he said afterwards.
"The smashings that we've had over the last month, you have to take something out of it, and you're starting to see that."
Jeremy Cameron's star continues to rise, kicking 4.4 to take his goal tally for the season to 31, with ruckman Jonathan Giles prominent in the ruck and Adam Treloar and Callan Ward standouts.
Tim Mohr also did an excellent job on Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins.
The Giants made a stunning start to the game, running rings around the Cats and putting five unanswered goals on the board.
"Package this in a highlights tape and send it to Buddy Franklin," Kevin Bartlett said on radio station SEN, referring to GWS' interest in the off-contract Hawthorn superstar.
Scott made his feelings known at quarter-time. The Geelong coach gave his troops an animated spray, which had the desired effect.
The Cats burst out of the blocks and kicked eight goals to four for the term to lead by eight points at the main break.
But the Giants, who were level at half-time with Geelong in their only other meeting in round 10 last year, were still in the contest.
Cameron kicked two stunning goals in the term, leading David Schwarz to state on SEN "Who needs Buddy?" after the young key forward beat four Cats and slotted the goal from a tight angle near the main break.
"Look I'd rip up that $2 million for Buddy," Bartlett added.
The Giants stayed in touch in another impressive effort in the third quarter. The Cats claimed the term by just four points to lead by two goals at the final change as one of the great upsets in AFL history remained a possibility.
Geelong's experience proved telling in the final term doing but GWS took an almighty leap forward at Skoda Stadium.
James Dampney is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_JD
Giants forward Jeremy Cameron produced another fine game against the Cats. Picture: AFL Media
GEELONG 2.3 10.7 16.8 24.13 (157)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 5.3 9.5 14.8 15.8 (98)
Geelong: Podsiadly 5, Murdoch 3, Hawkins 2, Hunt 2, Selwood 2, Johnson, Mackie, Bartel, Stokes, Christensen, Corey, West, Duncan, Stringer, Kelly
GWS: Cameron 4, Palmer 3, Scully 2, Ward, Reid, Plowman, Treloar, Shiel, Tomlinson
Geelong: Selwood, Johnson, Christensen, Enright, Hunt, Podsiadly
GWS: Cameron, Giles, Ward, Treloar, Palmer, Hampton
Geelong: Steve Johnson (concussion), Allen Christensen (concussion)
GWS: Toby Greene (quad) replaced in selected side by Sam Reid, Dean Brogan (back) replaced in selected side by Aidan Corr
Geelong: Mitch Duncan replaced Nathan Vardy in the third quarter
GWS: Lachie Whitfield replaced Stephen Coniglio at three-quarter time
Umpires: Schmitt, Pannell, Mitchell
Official crowd: 7809 at Skoda Stadium