WELL, nobody saw any of that coming.
Carlton has broken through for its first win of the year in the unpredictable, topsy-turvy, unusual way that season 2020 almost warrants, holding on for a two-point victory over Geelong at GMHBA Stadium.
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON Full match coverage and stats
The Blues led by 42 points in the third term and looked set to comfortably run away with the game, but were nearly overrun by last year's preliminary finalists, who booted five goals to none in the last quarter to almost snatch the win.
Geelong had its chances late, too, with some fumbled efforts, Gryan Miers' decision to play on after a free kick and Gary Ablett's missed set shot proving costly in the 12.7 (79) to 11.11 (77) result.
Carlton set up its first win at the Cattery since 1996 with a brilliant opening quarter, as co-captain Patrick Cripps (24 disposals and two goals) and recruit Jack Martin dominated the midfield battle. Forwards Mitch McGovern and Levi Casboult also impressed as the Cats looked set to succumb to their overlapping run and inside grunt.
Carlton will be thankful for shorter quarters as they only just slipped over the line, and they now sit alongside the Cats as having one win from their first three games in this disrupted season.
And they will have the words of Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson ringing in their ears after he said on Thursday night that the Cats weren't "that good" after their huge win over the Hawks last week. Maybe he was right.
Blues' fast start
After costly opening terms in their first two games, the Blues came in hot against the Cats. They booted five goals to one to establish a 25-point buffer at the first change, a stark contrast to their game-shaping first quarters so far in 2020. In fact, it bucked a bad trend for Carlton under coach David Teague, who had won just three of 13 first quarters under his watch since he took on the position in the middle of last year. Now the challenge is about finishing things off.
The Martin effect
The Blues targeted Jack Martin last year to add some genuine class and skill to their midfield mix. But the former Sun has also brought a layer of toughness and grunt around the ball. All of those traits were on show against the Cats, with Martin starting in the centre square and dazzling with his delivery into attack. He made life easier for key forwards Casboult and McGovern on several occasions and finished with 18 disposals as his game continues to build. He shapes as a star set to emerge in 2020.
Betts is back
Any doubt that champion small forward Eddie Betts would be able to recapture his best in his return to Carlton was put to rest against the Cats. The former Crows star was one of the most damaging players on the ground in attack, kicking two goals but also having seven score involvements from 12 disposals. In the third quarter alone Betts had three goal assists, bringing others into the game and finding space. Betts was also crucial late in the piece with some huge efforts and a match-saving tackle.
GEELONG 1.2 4.6 6.7 11.7 (77)
CARLTON 5.3 9.5 12.6 12.7 (79)
Geelong: Hawkins 2, Rohan 2, Bews, Guthrie, Miers, Selwood, Stanley, Taylor, Atkins
Carlton: Betts 2, Casboult 2, Cripps 2, McGovern 2, Murphy 2, Gibbons, McKay
Geelong: Duncan, Dangerfield, Tuohy, Narkle, Miers
Carlton: Cripps, Betts, Gibbons, Martin, Docherty
Geelong: Dahlhaus (concussion), Menegola (hip), Stanley (knee)