Hugh McCluggage celebrates a goal during Brisbane's clash against Melbourne in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

HUGH McCluggage has sealed a dramatic come-from-behind victory for Brisbane on Friday night, threading a late goal from the boundary line to sink a heartbroken Melbourne by five points at the Gabba.

After trailing by 23 points at half-time and 15 at the final change, the Lions stormed home to win 11.20 (86) to 11.15 (81) to jump into the top eight for the first time this season.

LIONS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

Brisbane botched plenty of chances in the final quarter and looked like falling frustratingly short, before Kai Lohmann breathed life into their comeback with a terrific left-foot finish.

After Will Ashcroft's hurried shot hit the post to level scores, it was McCluggage's turn to play hero. But it wasn't without controversy.


Hemmed in near the boundary, Demon Alex Neal-Bullen picked the ball up and dived over the line to safety. Or so he thought.

The umpire paid a free kick for insufficient intent and McCluggage went back and slotted the difficult shot from 45m.


Bayley Fritsch had a chance to level scores late, but his flying shot sailed wide and Brisbane was home to win its fourth straight game.

Led by Jack Viney (26 disposals and nine clearances) and Kysaiah Pickett (five goals), Melbourne was fantastic for most of the match, breaking the game open with an eight-goal second quarter, but it ran out of legs.

After being outplayed in the first half, Brisbane's midfield lifted, led by McCluggage (28 disposals), Lachie Neale (29) and Josh Dunkley (32).


The Lions improved to 8-6-1 and jumped into fifth on the ladder, while the Demons are 8-7 and sit 10th.

With a ferocity around the contest that overwhelmed Brisbane, the Demons kicked eight goals in a stunning second quarter.


Brisbane had dropped the Jarrod Berry tag on Viney, Max Gawn was dominating his duel with Oscar McInerney and Melbourne forced the ball forward time after time and punished a leaky Lions defence as Clayton Oliver (29 disposals and a goal) started brightly.

Jacob van Rooyen started the chaos, kicking two goals from strong marks before Pickett completely took over.

The dynamic half-forward kicked three for the term – four for the half – including one exquisite left-foot snap at top pace from 40m.


It didn't matter who Brisbane sent to him, it simply had no answer for Pickett's pace, evasion and expertise in the air.

Melbourne's tall forwards, so often questioned, suddenly looked potent, with Harrison Petty and Daniel Turner taking multiple contested marks alongside van Rooyen to prove critical links in the chain.

But the Lions started to find a way back into the contest in the third quarter before dominating the fourth, squandering numerous opportunities before McCluggage's late heroics.


Dramatic free kick against Alex Neal-Bullen
With scores level and 78 seconds remaining, Melbourne's Alex Neal-Bullen had possession close to the boundary line. Surrounded by three Lions, he dived over the line like he was scoring a rugby league try. With no pressure being applied, the adjudicating umpire had little option but to pay a free kick to Brisbane for insufficient intent. Hugh McCluggage was the man on the spot, and after he arced out to the right with his set shot, he split the sticks with the difficult shot from 45m to give the home team its first lead since midway through the second term.


Only Joe could do that
On a frustrating night for Joe Daniher, he still found a way to have an impact – in a way only he could. As the Lions streamed forward in the third quarter Daniher looked like taking an uncontested mark about 40m out. However, he dropped it, then tripped over, and with two teammates heading towards goal unattended, the lanky full-forward got to his feet and kicked it off the ground – and watched it dribble through. Unintentional as it was, it was an unforgettable moment all the same.


Will Ashcroft's comeback
After almost 12 months out of the game with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, Will Ashcroft made a successful comeback against the Demons. He first disposal was a shot at goal on the run from 45m that sailed just to the left as the Gabba was about to erupt. The 20-year-old played mostly at half-forward, with small bursts onball, and got better as the night wore on, finishing with 18 disposals that included seven score involvements.


BRISBANE              3.7     5.8      8.14      11.20 (86)  
MELBOURNE          1.5     9.7     11.11     11.15 (81)  

Brisbane: Rayner 2, Daniher 2, Cameron 2, McCluggage, Lohmann, Hipwood, Berry, Ah Chee
Pickett 5, van Rooyen 2, Turner, Oliver, Fritsch, Chandler

Brisbane: McCluggage, Neale, Dunkley, Hipwood, Starcevich, Zorko
Pickett, Viney, Oliver, Gawn, van Rooyen, Petty

Brisbane: Nil

Brisbane: Nil
Jake Bowey (back) replaced by Kynan Brown

Brisbane: Jaspa Fletcher (replaced Logan Morris in the third quarter)
Kynan Brown (replaced Harrison Petty in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 29,617 at the Gabba