A GRITTY second-half comeback has saved Bob Murphy's 300th-game celebration, with the Western Bulldogs seeing off a brave Brisbane Lions' outfit by 32 points at Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Dogs kicked 12 goals to two after the main break – including one from the milestone man himself – to win 17.20 (122) to 14.6 (90).
It looked less like a fairytale and more like a nightmare for the premiers early on, with the Lions' startling accuracy in attack opening up a second-quarter lead of 38 points.
In comparison, the Dogs couldn't hit the side of a barn before the main break.
They had more than double the number of inside 50s to quarter time and 16 to five shots at goal, but moved the ball with a horrific kicking efficiency of just 13 per cent.
The Lions couldn't miss. They had nine goals on the board before their first behind 21 minutes into the second, with Eric Hipwood nailing three before a corked leg reduced his input.
The Dogs' defence had holes, with the Lions booting an astounding number of goals on the run after quick movement got the ball in behind the last line.
Lewis Taylor was the spark, Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko accumulated plenty of the ball while the lead was assembled, and Daniel McStay and Harris Andrews impressed in defence with Tom Boyd kept virtually out of the contest.
But all their precision and brave movement was cut down when the Dogs staged their second-half comeback, with Jack Macrae, Luke Dahlhaus and Liam Picken the main instigators in five unanswered goals.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said while the comeback showed great "grit and integrity", the initial deficit exposed holes in their game when faced with opponents rebounding quickly after turnovers.
"The great thing is they hung in there," Beveridge said.
"Their self-belief and team belief is right there in the right part of the chart, and to turn it around by 60-odd points again is a great effort, but we don't want to be there.
"We want to take control of games, and we're not doing that."
The Lions still held a five-point lead going into the final term despite failing to score a major in the third.
Tom Rockliff opened the fourth with a goal, but Josh Dunkley responded quickly despite his own injury concerns.
A 50m penalty to Dahlhaus after he marked and was dragged to the deck by Daniel Rich gave the Dogs their 12th goal with nine minutes left, and they inched a point in front.
A midfield turnover then saw Murphy gather and slam the ball inside 50, which turned into a match-winning major to Dunkley with five minutes to go.
The floodgates then opened and the party started, with the premiers coasting to the line with four more majors.
Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan said his team "did a lot right", but with six 19-year-olds in the side, understood fatigue became an issue.
"We were off the back of a six-day turnaround, and the Doggies had a couple more days to get ready than what we did – perhaps that showed a little bit in the end," Fagan said.
"That's not to take credit away from the Dogs. Their fightback was fantastic.
"We understood that they would come back at us hard. We were still in front at the 16-minute mark of the last quarter … unfortunately the dam wall burst."
Western Bulldogs: Josh Dunkley was brave to see the game out after injuring his left ankle and copping a bruising hit to his lower back. He was icing both injuries in the rooms afterwards, but the Dogs are confident neither is serious. Matthew Boyd had the back of his head sewn together after a heavy knock, but played out the game with what was sure to be a whopper of a headache.
Brisbane Lions: Eric Hipwood hurt his left leg in the second quarter but finished the game, while Dayne Zorko suffered a poke in the eye and spent time on the bench, but recovered to be one of the Lions' best.
The Bulldogs will play their first game in Canberra since 2014 when they take on Greater Western Sydney in the capital's inaugural Friday night game at UNSW Canberra Oval. Meanwhile, the Lions will host Port Adelaide at the Gabba on Saturday at twilight, after last beating them in 2015.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.7 5.13 12.19 17.20 (122)
BRISBANE LIONS 5.0 12.3 12.5 14.6 (90)
Western Bulldogs: Stringer 3, Dunkley 3, McLean 2, Adams, T Boyd, Picken, Murphy, Macrae, Johannisen, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Smith
Brisbane Lions: Hipwood 3, Lester 2, Keays 2, Zorko 2, Taylor, C Beams, Robinson, McCluggage, Rockliff
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Johannisen, Picken, Dahlhaus, Dunkley, Stringer, Bontempelli
Brisbane Lions: Taylor, Zorko, D Beams, Robinson, McStay, Martin
Western Bulldogs: M Boyd (head), Dunkley (hip)
Brisbane Lions: Zorko (eye)
Umpires: Schmitt, Hay, Williamson
Official crowd: 31,822 at Etihad Stadium