THE SYDNEY Swans have overcome early injuries to Kurt Tippett and Tom Mitchell to keep their premiership defence alive with a stirring 24-point victory over Carlton at ANZ Stadium.
But the home side put that all aside and kept Carlton scoreless in a brilliant third term en route to a 13.8 (86) to 8.14 (62) victory in front of a disappointing crowd of just 37,980.
Jarrad McVeigh came into the game under his own injury cloud, but gathered 20 disposals in the second term alone and a career-best 42 for the match, plus two goals, to comfortably claim best-on-ground honours.
Luke Parker (three goals) and Harry Cunningham (two) were damaging in front of goal, while Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack, Josh Kennedy and Ryan O'Keefe responded strongly for a home side written off by many after last week's inept second half against Hawthorn.Every Sydney Swans player rated
Tippett and Mitchell now seem extremely unlikely participants for next Saturday's long trip to Perth to take on Fremantle in a preliminary final, but the Swans will at least take form and confidence into the final four showdown.
O'Keefe will also be in some doubt after hobbling off at the final siren, having appeared to suffer an injury to his right ankle in the dying seconds.
"To do that like they did tonight was just a fantastic win," he said.
"I just thought from our captains right through, the resilience to be able to play such a big game against a fair few odds from fairly early in the game, showed an enormous amount of character and just a fantastic effort."
That area of the ground had been under stadium seating for two rugby league matches on Friday night.
Surface issues aside, the Blues seemed to run out of puff after an end to the season that would have surprised even their most fervent supporters.
Elevated to eighth position following Essendon's penalties for its controversial 2012 supplements program, Carlton produced some outstanding form in last week's elimination final victory over Richmond, but was outclassed on Saturday night.
Andrew Walker (30 disposals) and Kade Simpson (28) found plenty of the ball and Jarrad Waite kicked three goals, but the majority of the visitors were well held on the night.Every Carlton player rated
Chris Judd, so pivotal against the Tigers, was unable to replicate his heroics, finishing with just 15 touches.
The Blues had their own injury worries, with Ed Curnow subbed out in the second term with a knee injury, but unlike the Swans' injured brigade he now has plenty of time to rehabilitate.
"Without naming players, we probably had I reckon nine, maybe 10 that would say 'yup, we weren't too bad'," Malthouse said.
"So that leaves a lot of other players that would learn a great lesson, no lesson that a coach can talk about.
"You only learn that from playing against a very seasoned campaigner that sets a high standard."
There was no indication of the carnage to come when Jack and Parker kicked first-term goals to answer Eddie Betts' opener.
Dictating the play, the Swans had started well until the disastrous sight of Tippett limping from the ground, followed soon after by Mitchell.
Yet the home side maintained its composure among the debris, taking a one-goal lead into quarter-time.
The Swans then booted five goals to two in the second quarter for a 22-point lead at the main break.
With expectations the fresher Blues could mount a charge in the third term, the Swans instead kicked 5.2 to nothing. It was the first time in 207 quarters in finals that a Mick Malthouse-coached side had failed to score.
The exhausted Swans then failed to score in the final term, but the damage had been done as they stayed alive in 2013.
Jarrad McVeigh tackles Mitch Robinson during the Swans' semi-final win. Picture: AFL Media
SYDNEY SWANS 3.3 8.6 13.8 13.8 (86)
CARLTON 2.3 4.8 4.8 8.14 (62)
Sydney Swans: Parker 3, McVeigh, Jack, Cunningham 2, O'Keefe, Kennedy, Jetta, Bolton
Carlton: Waite 3, Betts 2, Armfield, Gibbs, Robinson
Sydney Swans: McVeigh, Parker, Jack, Hannebery, Grundy, Cunningham
Carlton: Walker, Murphy, Simpson, Henderson, McLean
Sydney Swans: Tippett (leg), Mitchell (ankle)
Carlton: Troy Menzel (soreness) replaced in the selected side by Brock McLean, Jamison (neck), Curnow (knee), Garlett (leg)
Sydney Swans: Kurt Tippett replaced by Lewis Jetta in the first quarter
Carlton: Ed Curnow replaced by Tom Bell in the second quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Rosebury, Nicholls
Official crowd: 37,980 at ANZ Stadium