IT WILL come as cold comfort for North Melbourne but the AFL has admitted a crucial late free kick shouldn't have been paid to Brisbane big man Oscar McInerney.

With scores level and just 70 seconds left on the clock at the Gabba on Saturday night, McInerney and Kangaroos defender Scott Thompson competed in an aerial duel 20m from Brisbane's goal when the Roos veteran used his considerable experience to outbody the big Lion to take a nerves-of-steel contested mark. 

However, in a huge call, Thompson was penalised for a push in the back, when replays showed he had actually made contact to the side of McInerney's body. 

To the delight of the home crowd and the shock of North fans, McInerney goaled from the resultant set shot and the Lions went on to win by 12 points

The cliffhanger result, which lifted the Lions to second, left the Kangaroos with only slim finals hopes, given they sit two games and considerable percentage outside the top eight with only five rounds remaining.

The League issued a statement on Sunday conceding the error. 

"The AFL Umpiring Department advises the free kick awarded to Brisbane Lions' Oscar McInerney against North Melbourne's Scott Thompson in the fourth quarter of last night's match at the Gabba was incorrect," the AFL said. 

Post-match, North's interim coach Rhyce Shaw was confused by the decision.

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"That's certainly a difficult one. It's interesting that he marked the ball," Shaw said. 

"The pressure of the game, the players make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. I'm not sure that I understood it. That's just the way it is. I can't do anything about that now – the game's done."