OH WHEN the Saints go marching in to finals contention.
Three weeks ago, St Kilda's hopes of making the top eight looked shot after a last-gasp loss to Adelaide. But after an upset thumping of Richmond last week, and then on Sunday surviving a late scare to beat Collingwood by nine points at the MCG, St Kilda is back in the race.
The 10.10 (70) to 8.13 (61) win lifts the Saints to 11th position of the ladder but only two points behind eighth-placed Greater Western Sydney with seven rounds to play. Results from other finals aspirants have also largely fallen the Saints' way to stretch open their chances.
St Kilda did what it had to against a Collingwood line-up that kicked one goal in the first half before storming home to boot five (to none) in the last quarter and give Brett Ratten's side a fright that the drop-off to the Crows might be about to reoccur.
The Saints' contributors were evenly spread. Midfield tyros Jack Steele (36 disposals, 14 tackles, eight clearances), Luke Dunstan (27) and Brad Crouch (28) were important, as was Bradley Hill off half-back with 30 touches.
MAGPIES v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
Taylor Adams (34 disposals) and Jordan De Goey (32 disposals, 1.2) were Collingwood's best in what was an uninspiring showing until its final-term flurry.
St Kilda grew into the game after a lacklustre start, dominating possession and inside 50s in the first quarter (15 to nine) to take an 11-point lead into quarter-time. Hill was especially prolific, having 14 disposals in the opening term to bring plenty of run out of defence.
Max King's set shot was the only goal of a dreary second term, when De Goey missed two straight kicks at goal that could have reduced the 18-point deficit at half-time.
St Kilda, which had leaked in defence for the first half of the season, conceded only one goal for the half as the Magpies struggled to push forward with any certainty.
SAINTS SPEEDSTER AVAILABLE Pies will be 'asking a lot of questions'
The Saints skipped clear in the third, with Tim Membrey's quick goal foreshadowing a run of majors from key targets Rowan Marshall, King and then Patrick Ryder. The Saints' height inside 50 was too much to handle for Collingwood, who broke a two-quarter drought without a goal at the 20-minute mark of the third term as De Goey's third shot was successful.
Ryder again hit the scoreboard late in the quarter as the Saints took a 43-point advantage into the final term. The game looked over but Collingwood freed itself up to take things on as the Saints missed an important chance to recoup some percentage.
Hill climbs to new heights
His performances for the past two seasons have come under fierce scrutiny, natural for a high-profile trade acquisition who is his club's highest-paid player. But Hill has picked up in form in recent weeks and against the Magpies he enjoyed a day out, gathering 30 disposals – his most in 34 games in St Kilda colours. Playing off half-back, Hill was dominant early with 14 disposals in the first quarter and continued to be an important player in the win. Since he was tagged out of the Saints' clash with North Melbourne in round 11, Hill has averaged 24 disposals in the past four weeks.
The rare moment of Steele Sidebottom having a lapse in concentration on the field led to a strange goal for St Kilda in the first quarter. After taking a sliding mark, which was paid to Brodie Grundy, the Magpies ruckman quickly played on and handballed to Sidebottom. But the premiership Magpie misconstrued the umpire's whistle and thought a free kick was being paid so put the ball down on the ground across half-back and started running forward. But no free kick had been paid, and St Kilda scurried the ball inside 50 for Dan McKenzie to kick a straightforward goal. Collingwood players protested the decision but it was Sidebottom's error.
Cox's tall order
Mason Cox's quiet day was met with Bronx cheers from Collingwood fans in the second quarter when the tall forward grabbed a mark on the wing. Brought back into the Magpies' senior side for its clash with Fremantle last week – when he kicked 0.2 from six disposals – the 30-year-old was quiet in attack with eight disposals and a fourth-quarter goal. He left the field in the third quarter with a wrist problem but returned to play out the game. Cox is out of contract at the end of the year but been given an opportunity from interim coach Robert Harvey.
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 1.5 3.7 8.13 (61)
ST KILDA 3.1 4.5 10.8 10.10 (70)
Collingwood: Mihocek 2, Cox, Daicos, De Goey, Elliott, Hoskin-Elliott, Thomas
St Kilda: King 2, Membrey 2, Ryder 2, Butler, Higgins, Marshall, McKenzie
Collingwood: Adams, De Goey, Pendlebury, Daicos, Quaynor
St Kilda: Steele, Hill, Dunstan, Crouch, Sinclair, Membrey
Collingwood: Daicos (finger)
St Kilda: Nil
Collingwood: Macrae (replaced Daicos)
St Kilda: Battle (unused)
Crowd: 18,082 at the MCG