Port Adelaide's eccentric coach tried to warn of his side's ascent, way back in February – before anyone knew the coronavirus pandemic was going to turn the season upside down.

"Look out, we're coming" was the gist of Ken Hinkley's message. Cue the laughter and mocking, yet Hinkley set about not only saving his job, but steering the Power toward a flag assault. 

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They won the minor premiership and still hadn't done enough to be favourites in the experts' eyes. 

Maybe that might change on the strength of Port Adelaide's 9.4 (58) to 5.12 (42) qualifying final defeat of Geelong at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night. 

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Highlights: Port Adelaide v Geelong

The Power and Cats clash in the first qualifying final

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The result was a dramatic reversal to the 10-goal hiding the Cats dished out to Hinkley's men seven weeks ago. 

The Power are the first team into a preliminary final, courtesy of their first finals triumph in six long years, during which they were largely mired in mediocrity. 

Tom Rockliff being arguably the best player afield fitted the night's events in the first final of a career 12 seasons deep. Rockliff and Sam Powell-Pepper were the hard heads in the centre, winning a combined 10 clearances. 

After hanging in for much of the first half, Port exploded into action in a frenetic start to the third term that stole the match from Geelong's wasteful grasp. 

It began with a Xavier Duursma tackle on Jack Henry that turned the ball over in the middle and kickstarted a three-goal burst to open a match-high 21-point buffer in a low-scoring contest. 

Ex-Cat Steven Motlop was central to the fireworks – kicking his third major with a snap over his head – but even those who had a quiet first half came to life. 

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Power erupt as Motlop makes his move

The Port Adelaide faithful rise off their chairs after Steven Motlop bags his side's opening goal of the finals

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Travis Boak, Ollie Wines and Hamish Hartlett rallied to make their mark, and the kids stood up again. 

'WE WERE PRETTY RUTHLESS' Hinkley praises Power heroics

Duursma's effort to run back with the flight in the forward 50 in the third quarter resulted in him being accidentally knocked out and watching the rest of the game from the sidelines. 

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Devastating Duursma blow after courageous act

Port young gun Xavier Duursma gets helped off the field after putting his body on the line in a marking contest

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Fast-forward to the final term, and Zak Butters' effort to win a hard ball set up a Peter Ladhams goal just as Geelong had closed the margin to seven points. 

The only blemish on an otherwise great night was a potential match review incident for Butters, who will sweat over how his potential headbutt on Mark O'Connor will be viewed. 

For the Cats, this loss does nothing for their finals reputation as underachievers under Chris Scott. 

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The dying stages of the first half summed up their night. 

Joel Selwood had just kicked a brilliant, standing-start goal to finally give Geelong a narrow – but deserved – lead in the final minute, after largely dominating the second quarter. 

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Selwood stunner silences the Power

Joel Selwood chimes in with a sensational effort right on the brink of half-time

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The morale-booster was short-lived. 

Port won the ensuing centre clearance before an awkward but accurate Wines kick set up Brad Ebert's magnificent 50m strike as the half-time siren sounded that gave his team a one-point edge. 

That finish meant it was instead the Power who strode off with purpose, after the Cats had beaten them up in the contest but continually wasted opportunities in front of goal. 

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The greatest culprit? Tom Hawkins, the man who tore Port apart in the corresponding round 12 clash to the tune of six goals, 12 score involvements and nine marks inside 50. 

On this night, Hawkins finished with five miserable behinds. 

His first two shots were deep in the pocket – one went right across the face, then the next to the near side of the left goalpost. Hawkins' next two were less forgivable. 

The Coleman medallist sprayed a straightforward set shot to the right before opting to play on at his next chance – again within range – and watching his left-foot snap register another behind.

PORT ADELAIDE     2.1     4.2     7.4     9.4     (58)
GEELONG                1.4     3.7     4.8     5.12     (42) 

Port Adelaide: Motlop 3, Ebert 2, Dixon, Rozee, Ladhams, Marshall
Geelong: Stanley 2, Tuohy, Selwood, Dangerfield 

Port Adelaide: Rockliff, Powell-Pepper, Ebert, Motlop, Wines, Hartlett, Butters
Geelong: Parfitt, Selwood, Dangerfield, Guthrie, Duncan, Taylor

Port Adelaide: Duursma (concussion), Marshall (shoulder)
Geelong: Nil