ESSENDON began life without James Hird with a positive performance, but fell two points short of Gold Coast in a thrilling clash at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
The Suns held off the Bombers to claim a narrow 14.13 (97) to 14.11 (95) win in a game marred by a head knock to Sam Day which resulted in the big forward being taken to hospital.
Bombers forward Jake Carlisle had the chance to deliver a morale-boosting victory for Essendon but his right foot snap on the full-time siren could only go through for a behind.
That left Bombers players strewn across the Metricon Stadium turf in disappointment but interim coach Matthew Egan doesn't want the result to overshadow his team's effort.
"We're a pretty positive coaching group," Egan said.
"Whack them when they need to be whacked but I thought tonight was one of those nights where their effort - they did everything we asked - we spoke a lot about playing as a really tight team and doing all the little team things out there and they did exactly that.
"We've just got to keep that going."
Ruckman Shaun McKernan was one who was particularly unlucky to be on a beaten team.
Despite being undersized against big Sun Zac Smith, McKernan won 26 hit-outs and kicked three goals for the visitors.
Dyson Heppell and Cale Hooker also kicked three majors, while sub Orazio Fantasia was a game-changer when he came on for out-of-sorts Joe Daniher in the third term.
Fantastia kicked two goals - the first of his AFL career - including one with less than three minutes to go which brought the Bombers within a goal of the win.
WATCH: The last two minutes of Suns v Bombers
The undermanned Suns were just as good as their opponents in a game which was short on skill but high on drama.
In-form Aaron Hall was again superb, picking up 31 disposals and a goal.
Young gun Jack Martin kicked three goals, as did key forward Tom Lynch, while Harley Bennell and Matt Shaw booted two majors each.
Despite the win - the Suns' fourth of the season and second in three matches - coach Rodney Eade wasn't completely happy.
"We tried to throw it out of the boat," Eade said.
"Even though we made a lot of mistakes and the opposition did as well, I thought with the number of inside 50s we probably should have won by a few more goals."
Eade said despite the heavy knock where the top of Day's head collided with Bomber Mark Baguley's hip, he appeared to be OK and had only gone to hospital for precautionary scans on his neck.
GOLD COAST 5.3 9.5 12.7 14.13 (97)
ESSENDON 4.1 7.7 11.7 14.11 (95)
Gold Coast: Martin 3, Lynch 3, Bennell 2, Shaw 2, Russell, Malceski, Hall, Day
Essendon: Hooker 3, McKernan 3, Heppell 3, Fantasia 2, Dempsey 2, Laverde
Gold Coast: Lynch, Rischitelli, Martin, Kolodjashnij, Hall, Lonergan
Essendon: McKernan, Heppell, Stanton, Hooker, Hurley, O'Brien
Gold Coast: Day (neck)
Gold Coast: Josh Hall replaced Sam Day at three-quarter time
Essendon: Orazio Fantasia replaced Joe Daniher in the third quarter
Umpires: O'Gorman, Chamberlain, Edwards
Official crowd: 16,253 at Metricon Stadium