GREATER Western Sydney has inflicted Collingwood's first defeat this year and avoided a third straight loss to put its season back on track.
GIANTS HOLD ON Full match coverage and stats
In a fitting follow-up to their gritty preliminary final clash last year, GWS again withstood a last quarter onslaught to hang on for a 10.6 (66) to 9.10 (64) victory at Giants Stadium.
Only four points separated the sides last time as the Giants booked their maiden Grand Final berth, and there was deservedly even less between them on Friday night.
The returning Toby Greene was best afield with a match-winning three goals in another entertaining duel with Magpies defender Brayden Maynard, who still did his part for the black and white.
The Giants barely pierced their attacking 50 in the fourth term but made it count when they did.
Jeremy Cameron – otherwise well held by Darcy Moore – steered through a difficult set shot late in the contest to give GWS just enough breathing room.
A Mason Cox goal shortly afterwards set up a thrilling finish inside the final three minutes but the GWS backline, led superbly by Nick Haynes, hung tough.
Maynard and Moore, as well as Jordan Roughead, repelled the Giants repeatedly but that duo were also guilty of two awful defensive-half turnovers that cost their team crucial goals.
It was an enormous effort from GWS, which was coming off consecutive disappointing displays against North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs and entered the final term two players down.
Both Phil Davis' and Zac Williams' night ended early because of hamstring issues and an errant Scott Pendlebury set shot gave the Pies their first lead since the opening quarter.
Collingwood also lost Jeremy Howe in the last term, appearing to seriously hurt his right knee in a heavy collision with Jacob Hopper as they charged at the Sherrin.
Earlier, the Giants looked set to lodge an emphatic victory.
Harry Perryman kicked truly on the run midway through the third quarter to extend the margin out to 18 points – and at that point they had kicked six of the last eight goals.
However, a pair of goals each to Brody Mihocek and Tom Phillips, after underwhelming starts to the contest, revived the Pies' cause and ensured a grandstand finish.
Cox getting footsy?
Mason Cox used an interesting (translation: illegal) ruck strategy at a ball-up in the middle of the ground, sticking his right foot out to fend off Giant Jeremy Finlayson. The umpire had a clear view of the incident but was, perhaps, caught ball watching and somehow didn't pay a free kick. It ultimately mattered little, given Callan Ward won the ball at ground level and cleared it – but it was certainly an eyebrow-raising action. What would have happened if, say, Toby Greene was the offender rather than Cox? Of course, the AFL has outlawed Greene's 'studs-up' marking style and that action was remarkably similar to what Cox did.
The Mummy Returns
St Kilda tried unsuccessfully last week to tag-team Collingwood's star ruckman Brodie Grundy with Paddy Ryder and emerging big man Rowan Marshall. The Giants preferred recruit Sam Jacobs as their No.1 ruck option in the opening three rounds but his lean form forced a rethink. With memories still strong of Shane Mumford's bullocking effort against Grundy in last year's preliminary final, GWS turned to the 33-year-old on Friday night. Mumford produced more of the same in the rematch, using his physicality to great effect. Grundy won the lion's share of the hitouts again but few of them went to advantage, with the Giants winning the clearances 35-32. That's a tick for GWS.
Top Giants draftees show some spunk
Top-10 draft picks Lachie Ash (No.4) and Tom Green (No.10) had both made their AFL debut before Friday night's game but this was the first time they stepped out together for GWS. Tough inside midfielder Green's seven clearances were as many as any player on the ground and he looked comfortable mixing it with Collingwood's onballers in the clinches. It was a quieter night on the stats sheet for Ash but he elevated in the opening term for a seriously impressive intercept mark before driving the Giants inside 50. Adrian Caruso and his recruiting team just keep getting it right at the top of the draft order.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.3 4.4 8.6 10.6 (66)
COLLINGWOOD 2.2 4.4 8.5 9.10 (64)
Greater Western Sydney: Greene 3, Cameron 2, Finlayson, Green, Perryman, Ward, Kelly
Collingwood: Stephenson 2, Mihocek 2, Phillips 2, Daicos, Crisp, Cox
Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Green, Whitfield, Haynes, Kelly, de Boer
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Moore, Howe, Maynard, Crisp, Wills
Greater Western Sydney: Davis (right hamstring), Williams (left hamstring)
Collingwood: Howe (right knee)