ST KILDA withstood an early onslaught from a pint-sized Brisbane Lions outfit to post a comfortable 22-point victory at the Gabba on Sunday.
Down by 29 points at one stage in the opening term, the Saints recovered to kick nine of the next 11 goals and then held their nerve as the game went down to the wire in front of 16,898 fans.
Two goals in two minutes from Maverick Weller at the start of the final quarter gave St Kilda the breathing space they needed to claim the 16.12 (108) to 13.8 (86) result, with the fumbly Lions unable to mount a creditable comeback.
Skipper Nick Riewoldt kicked four goals and hauled in 10 marks in his return from a one-week concussion layoff, while midfielder David Armitage's 31 touches and 11 clearances largely sparked the comeback.
Coach Alan Richarson said St Kilda's resilience to fight back after the slow start was pleasing.
"We've actually done a bit of that this year, even in games we haven't won," Richardson said.
"The group certainly has got some spirit.
"It was interesting listening to West Coast talk about the performance last week and they mentioned a fair bit about the spirit the Saints are playing with.
"We're certainly proud of that."
Lion Ryan Lester also booted four goals and proved the unlikely answer to the question of who would fill the void up forward left by the injured Daniel McStay.
Beset by an horrendous injury crisis, the Lions were already running out of talls before the pre-match withdrawal of defender Darcy Gardiner (calf), which left them with surely one of the most vertically-challenged teams in recent memory.
They had just four genuine big men - ruckmen Stefan Martin and Matthew Leuenberger and key defenders Harris Andrews and Justin Clarke.
The scenario made it all the more puzzling that they struggled so badly at ground level, with the majority of St Kilda's goals coming from zippy work at contests or sloppy Lions turnovers.
The Lions were again cruelled by injury with Ryan Harwood (concussion) and Jed Adcock (calf) succumbing during the first half.
Martin was the home side's best, collecting 25 possessions, 31 hit-outs and seven clearances, shading Dayne Beams, who had a game-high 38 disposals and seven tackles.
"We were beaten on ground level in our defensive 50. We lost a few defenders, had a few makeshift guys down there," Leppitsch said.
"The good news was they only took 12 marks inside 50 so our young keys didn't get absolutely murdered in the air this week, which was good."
The Lions kicked the first five goals of the match on their way to an opening-term tally of 7.1 (43) - their best return from any quarter this year.
But they failed to show the same potency when they had the ball holed up in St Kilda's defensive 50 early in the final term when the game was on the line.
The Lions also lost Ryan Harwood, who was substituted out in the second quarter with concussion, while Clarke could find himself in the crosshairs of the match review panel after chopping down St Kilda defender Daniel McKenzie in a marking contest in the last quarter.
Daniel Rich tries to burst through a pack of Saints. Picture: AFL Media
BRISBANE LIONS 7.1 8.2 11.6 13.8 (86)
ST KILDA 2.3 9.6 12.9 16.12 (108)
Brisbane Lions: Lester 4, Rich 2, Green, Robinson, Bewick, Zorko, Rockliff, Robertson, Christensen
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Dunstan 2, Weller 2, Schneider 2, Armitage 2, Steven, Roberton, Lonie, Bruce
Brisbane Lions: Martin, Lester, D.Beams, Andrews, Zorko, Taylor
St Kilda: Armitage, Riewoldt, Steven, Dempster, Montagna, Schneider
Brisbane Lions: Gardiner (calf) replaced in selected side by Bewick, Harwood (concussion), Adcock (calf), C.Beams (knee), Rockliff (ribs)
St Kilda: Nil
Brisbane Lions: Zac O'Brien replaced Ryan Harwood in the second quarter
St Kilda: Jack Sinclair replaced Tom Hickey in the third quarter
Umpires: Ryan, Hosking, Ryan
Official crowd: 16,898 at the Gabba