JAKE Stringer had to overcome a week of illness to play a heroic role in Essendon's 10-point win over Gold Coast on Sunday.
While Cale Hooker kicked the go-ahead goal in the final minute to seal the four premiership points, it was coach John Worsfold's second-half move of putting Stringer onball that turned the tide.
The former Bulldog arrested Essendon's horror clearance work and finished with 14 disposals and four goals in a match-defining performance.
"Jake actually was a little bit crook during the week," Worsfold said post-match.
"We weren't actually planning to use him in there as much, but circumstances were that we felt we needed to put him in there.
"We managed his time in other ways and gave him a bit more time on the ball.
"Credit to him to fight through it because really up until yesterday morning I was checking on him to make sure he was good enough to play today."
WATCH The last two minutes
Not only did his bash-and-crash physicality around the stoppages help Essendon to kick the final six goals of the third quarter, but his own classy finish had a major impact during the final term.
Stringer kicked a miraculous banana off the right foot from 45m and then iced the game after roosting a bomb that bounced through from 70m in the dying seconds.
DONS DODGE BULLET Full match coverage and stats
Worsfold was pleased with Essendon's composure when the game was on the line, but said its intensity during the first half was lacking.
"They were using the ball really well because we were allowing them to," he said.
"That was disappointing on our behalf but it's credit because they took their opportunities.
"We were just happy that we could match them throughout the night for long enough to say we were going to be in front when the siren goes."
Worsfold said there was not much use worrying about a blatant goal umpiring error in the third quarter that cost his team a goal.
"My only understanding from that is that the umpire believed it stayed in and it's just play on," he said.
"He didn't call for a review because he was clear on what he saw.
"If the umpire's made an error - I'm not sure where the rules stand around stopping the game to review something when it's play on.
"If the ball crossed the line it's an error and there's nothing we can do about it and on we go."