COLLINGWOOD has ended Richmond's premiership defence, stunning the Tigers at their MCG stronghold with a powerhouse first half before withstanding a brave comeback to book a Grand Final spot with a 39-point win.
Richmond entered Friday night's game a clear favourite, having won its previous 22 games at the MCG, its past four finals and its past four games against the Magpies.
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But from the opening bounce the Pies hit the Tigers with a brilliant mix of precision ball use, blistering run and carry, and stifling pressure that had Damien Hardwick's normally unflappable unit rattled from midway through the first quarter.
The Magpies had no shortage of stars, but none stood taller than midfield star Steele Sidebottom and forwards Mason Cox and Jordan De Goey.
The Pies rammed on five goals in the opening term and held the Tigers to their lowest score for a first quarter this year, 1.3 (9), then extended their lead to 53 points late in the second term.
But just as Richmond appeared to go quietly, its pride kicked in.
A four-goal-to-two third quarter reduced the Tigers' deficit to 33 points at the final break, and when Jack Riewoldt and Jack Higgins kicked consecutive goals early in the last term they finally had a genuine sniff, just 21 points down at the seven-minute mark.
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However, this was the Pies' night and they did not let Richmond get any closer, settling to kick the final three goals to record a stirring 15.7 (97) to 8.10 (58) win and book their first Grand Final spot since 2011.
It was a brilliant performance that will give Nathan Buckley's men confidence they can win the club's first premiership since 2010, but next week the club will likely be sweating on the fitness of star defender Jeremy Howe, who suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and played little further part in the game.
As outstanding as Sidebottom (41 possessions, five clearances and three goal assists) was in the crucial onball battle, the game will probably be best remembered for the performance of the American Pie, Cox.
When Cox kicked the opening three goals of the second term – producing an exhibition of spectacular pack marks and nerveless set shots that Wayne Carey would have been proud of – it put the Pies 42 points up and produced a chant that might not have been heard at the MCG since the 1956 Olympics – "USA, USA, USA".
It was a surreal moment and a reminder of just how far the former soccer player has come in his short time in the game.
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Cox had struggled in the Magpies' opening two finals, but he produced a truly great finals performance on Friday night, finishing with three goals and 11 marks, eight of them contested.
De Goey shone just as brightly.
Six days after starring in Collingwood's semi-final win over Greater Western Sydney, De Goey (four goals) made short work of Richmond's best two defenders, Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes, with his explosiveness on the lead and smarts at ground level.
On a glorious night for the black and white army, Brodie Grundy (21 possessions and 56 hit-outs) dominated his ruck contest against Toby Nankervis, while Jack Crisp (30 possessions, rebound 50s and two goals) starred in defence and Taylor Adams (36 possessions, nine inside 50s, eight clearances) was a handy sidekick to Sidebottom through the midfield.
Howe was also impassable in defence before his injury, keeping a short rein on Dustin Martin when the Richmond superstar played forward.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley lauded the startling development of his team in 2018 after the match.
"It was a result that everyone thought was possible, but no one were really prepared to go with. The reality is that you need new information to understand that there has been a shift and for us it's our capacity to stand up in those big games against the best teams," Buckley said.
"We played the way we wanted to play for the most part, we handled when Richmond came at us. There's no doubt that when we had that gap on the scoreboard we probably played a little bit careful for a little while.
"When Richmond did what Richmond do and came at us the game started looking like the game style they want, we were able to compose ourselves and get it back on our terms."
Martin went into the game carrying a badly corked thigh that had bled into his knee and the Tigers' gamble on his fitness did not pay off.
The reigning Brownlow medallist had no impact in attack and was little more effective through the midfield where he was closely marked by Levi Greenwood and finished with just six kicks.
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Richmond's pre-game banner had read: "All aboard the Tiger train running express through September".
But the train that has run over so many opponents in the past two years ran out of steam at the worst possible time.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said it had been a disappointing finish to an otherwise "wonderful season".
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"To win 18 games and your first final and probably to bow out the way we played was really disappointing. It was an un-Richmond-like performance," Hardwick said.
"Credit where credit's due, I thought Collingwood were outstanding. I said this a couple of times when we played them I think they've been the best side we've played, the way they set up structurally was very good.
"We just couldn't get our game up and going at any stage, (we did for) a brief period during the third, briefly in the fourth. But they were just far too good and unfortunately to deliver that performance when we needed a better one was uncharacteristic of our side.
"We'll learn from it, we'll grow from it, but it's really hard at this stage to see that light unfortunately."
Jack Riewoldt stood head and shoulders above his Richmond teammates with a brilliant performance in attack that netted five goals and nine marks (three contested).
Captain Trent Cotchin (25 possessions and 10 clearances) never stopped trying, while Bachar Houli (22 possessions and four inside 50s) and Dion Prestia (24 possessions and four tackles) were among the Tigers' better performers.
Richmond: Although Martin looked restricted by his corked thigh during the game, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said he had been fine to play. The Tigers did not suffer any injuries during the match.
Collingwood: Jordan De Goey came from the ground midway through the third quarter, but returned soon after. Jeremy Howe came from the ground with an apparent ankle injury late in the third term after being tackled by Daniel Rioli and played little further part in the game. After the match, Pies coach Nathan Buckley said he expected both players to be fit for the Grand Final.
The Magpies will play in the Grand Final next Saturday at the MCG, taking on the winner of the second preliminary final between West Coast and Melbourne, while the Tigers' season is over.
RICHMOND 1.3 2.8 6.10 8.10 (58)
COLLINGWOOD 5.2 10.4 12.7 15.7 (97)
Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Higgins 2, Houli
Collingwood: De Goey 4, Cox 3, Crisp 2, Mihocek 2, Varcoe, Treloar, Grundy, Stephenson
Richmond: Riewoldt, Cotchin, Houli, Higgins
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Cox, Grundy, Adams, Crisp, De Goey, Greenwood
Collingwood: Howe (ankle)
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Ryan
Official crowd: 94,959 at the MCG